Valentine Kipketer Jepkorir and Eliud Kiplagat Barngetuny secured a Kenyan double at the 41st Rock ’n’ Roll Madrid Marathon, crossing the line in 2:30:40 and 2:10:15 respectively on Sunday 22nd April.
Kipketer’s mark took one minute and 24 seconds off the course record set in 2009 by Turkey’s Mehtap Sizmaz, while Barngetuny’s performance was the second-fastest winning time ever in Madrid.
The women’s event kicked off at a brisk rhythm. Paced by Spain’s Javier Díaz, the lead pack – Kipketer and compatriot Diana Chepkemoi Sigei plus the Ethiopian trio of Fantu Zewude Jifar, Megertu Ifa Geletu and Waka Chaltu Tafa – went through the opening 10 kilometres in 35:36, well inside course record schedule.
Two of the pre-race favourites, Ethiopia’s Bethlehem Moges and Aheza Kiros, were surprisingly never a factor today.
The lead pack reached the halfway point in 1:14:15, beyond which only Kipketer and Geletu were able to follow the pacesetter. With the clock reading 1:35:00, the Ethiopian began to lose ground and it became clear that, barring disaster, Kipketer would be the eventual winner.
The Kenyan leader, who was a creditable fifth at last October’s Chicago Marathon and holds a 2:23:02 PB for the distance, sped up over the following kilometres to go through 30 kilometres in 1:45:12, 1:27 clear of Geletu.
Once the pacemaker dropped out at 37 kilometres, Kipketer ran the closing section on her own. The gradually rising temperature (20C by the end) and the closing uphill metres prevented her from finishing within 2:30, but she still managed an overwhelming win in 2:30:40.
A fading Geletu was caught over the final kilometre by Sigei, who finished a distant runner-up in 2:38:06 to the Ethiopian’s 2:38:32.
“I’m in good shape and expected to run inside 2:30,” said Kipketer. “The first 30 kilometres were OK but then I had to run by myself. I also felt the heat but I’m satisfied with my victory today anyway.”
Pacemakers Nicholas Kirwa and Joseph Kiprono Kiptum led the main favourites in the opening stages, covering the first uphill five-kilometre section in 16:39. They reached 10 kilometres in 30:45 with 12 men still in contention.
After a 45:46 15-kilometre split, the clock read a promising 1:04:36 at halfway. By then no fewer than 10 athletes remained with winning chances: Eritrea’s Samuel Tsegay, the Kenyan group of Kenneth Kiplagat, Ezekiel Mutai, Jackson Limo, Vincent Chepkok, Alex Bartilol, Alfonce Kibiwot and Eliud Barngetuny, Ethiopia’s Shumie Gadisa and Bahrain’s Alemu Bekele.
As expected, the second half proved to be much tougher than the first because of the course profile and the rising temperatures. The 35-kilometre split of 1:47:41 made it clear that the course record (2:09:15) was not going to be broken today, as the heading pack was more than a minute behind schedule. By then, only Bekele had a chance of preventing a Kenyan win as up to six Kenyans remained at the top.
Kiplagat’s pace whittled down the heading pack to just three men by 37 kilometres: Kibiwott, Barngetuny and himself. Kibiwott began to falter with two kilometres to go, so the race became a two-man battle between Kiplagat and Barngetuny.
The latter found an extra gear during the closing kilometre to finish in a PB of 2:10:15. In second, Kiplagat also set a PB of 2:10:24, while Kibiwott was third in 2:10:32.
The joyful 31-year-old victor (not to confuse with another Eliud Barngetuny, a former 8:05:01 3000m steeplechase specialist) was quoted as saying:
“I felt very strong throughout, but my target was the win,” said the winner, not to be confused with the former 8:05.01 steeplechaser of the same name. “I decided to run conservatively for much of the race and only make my move at the very end. Had I broken away from the others earlier, I would have dipped under the 2:10 barrier for the first time but I’m satisfied with my career best of 2:10:15. I know I can run much faster than that.”
Ethiopia’s Gezaw Bekele Megerssa took a clear win in the half marathon in 1:03:14, followed by 39-year-old Spaniard Carles Castillejo (1:03:27).