Kenyans Dominate in Weekend Road Races

Nairobi — Kenyan athletes continued their road racing dominance over the weekend with several winnings with the highest performer being Felix Kimutai who raced to a course record at the Yellow River Estuary International Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race, in the Chinese city of Dongying.

Contesting his first race in China, the 30-year-old Kimutai pulled clear with six kilometres to go to secure victory in the men's race in 2:09:23, beating the course record of 2:09:27 set by compatriot Dickson Kipsang Tuwei in 2016.

His performance also improved his previous best of 2:09:57 set during his victory in Istanbul last year.

A lead group of 15 covered the opening 10km in 30:49, a pack reduced to 11 at 15km and further cut to 11 runners at 25km.

Six kilometres later, Morocco's Hicham Laqouahi, who bettered his PB to 2:08:35 with his victory at the Oita Mainichi Marathon in Beppu two months ago, made the first move. Although he was soon caught by the chase pack, the sudden change of pace forced four men to drop back.

When they reached the 35km water tables in 1:47:56, only four remained in contention: Laqouahi, Kimutai, Ethiopia's Fikadu Kebede and Dominic Ruto of Kenya.

Kimutai waited for another 1500m before launching his decisive move for the lead.

He was 10 seconds ahead of course record pace at 40km (2:02:50) and continued to push until breaking the tape in style with his finger pointing high towards the sky.

Kebede, a past winner of the Rabat Marathon with a 2:08:27 PB, finished second 15 seconds behind the winner in 2:09:38, while the 28-year-old Ruto finished third in 2:09:43, 35 second shy of his lifetime best set in Rome two years ago.

In the women's race, Ethiopia's Afera Godfay also ran course record time with the top two finishers in the race both finishing withing the course record of 2:24:45 set by two-time winner Letebrhan Haylay last year.

The 27-year-old Godfay outraced race favourite Waganesh Mekasha to celebrate her first marathon title since debuting over the classic distance in 2015.

Godfay also bettered her career best of 2:23:45 from her fourth-place finish in Shanghai last year with a winning mark of 2:22:41.

A pack of seven paced the race in the early stages, passing 10km in 34:05 and 15km in 51:01. The 27-year-old Mekasha, who has a PB of 2:22:45 set in Dubai in January, tried to pull away after the half way point with only Godfay managing to keep up.

The Ethiopian duo ran neck-and-neck for some 10 kilometres before Mekasha had to hand over the lead. But the in-form Godfay kept pushing on, extending her advantage until wrapping up the convincing victory in 2:22:41.

Mekasha clocked 2:23:19 to finish second in the first race in which she didn't improve on her PB since her victory at the Singapore Marathon in 2014.

Kenya's Truphena Chepchirchir was a distant third clocking 2:27:52, improving her PB by 19 seconds.

-Nenkampi wins in Yangzhou

Meanwhile, Kenya's Perine Nenkampi enjoyed a convincing victory in the women's race of the Yangzhou Jianzhen International Half Marathon while Berehanu Tsegu of Ethiopia clinched the men's title with a powerful home stretch run.

The 29-year-old Nenkampi upset a deep field that contained several sub-1:08 runners and took the victory with a career best time of 1:08:04, the second fastest winning time ever in Yangzhou after the course record of 1:07:21 set by fellow Kenyan and world champion Peres Jepchirchir in 2016.

Nenkampi stayed in a leading group of eight runners in the early stages and pulled clear for the sole lead near the halfway mark. She kept widening the gap and never looked back, crossing the line with a margin of nearly one-and-a-half minutes.

Birhan Mhretu of Ethiopia clocked a PB of 1:09:33 to finish second, bettering her previous career best by 53 seconds. Bekelech Gudeta of Ethiopia, the eighth-place finisher from the 2018 World Half Marathon Championships, took the third place in 1:09:45.

Nineteen-year-old Tsegu, in his first year as a senior athlete, outraced Kenya's Moses Kibet in the last 500 metres to break the tape in 59:56 in what was only his second international half marathon to date.

Last month Tsegu stormed to 59:41 on his half marathon debut to finish second in Lisbon and his winning time in the scenic Chinese city was only four seconds shy of the course record set by four-time champion Mosinet Geremew. IAAF

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