Kiprop and Kiplagat claim World half Marathon titles

Oct 16, 2010

Kenyans Wilson Kiprop and Florence Kiplagat took rare double half marathon championships victory at the IAAF / SINOPEC World Half Marathon Championships in Nanning, China on Saturday.

After an epic battle over the final two kilometres, Kiprop upset Zersenay Tadese to take the men’s title.

 Kiprop’s victory in 1:00:07 was the first for Kenya at these championships since 2004, and more significantly put an end to Tadese’s reign at this event after four consecutive wins.

“It’s very great to win, to beat a four-time world champion,” said the 23-year-old Kiprop, whose breakout 2010 season also included the African 10,000m title at home in Nairobi. “It’s very, great.”

The knockout blow didn’t come until the final 100 metres when Kiprop, running upright and looking forward, forged past Tadese, who appeared sluggish in the waning stages after running at or near the front since the outset. 

When he was passed for good a few strides from the finish Tadese came to a near-complete halt and hobbled across the finish in 1:00:11 reportedly injured.

Sammy Kitwara and Silas Kipruto finished third and fourth in 1:00:22 and 1:01:03 respectively, to secure Kenya’s fifth straight men’s team title.

“The team was very strong,” Kiprop said. “This is the first win for Kenya in a very long time. And I’m very happy for that.”

Kiprop, who made his Marathon debut in Prague in May where he clocked 2:09:09, had run just one Half Marathon prior to Nanning, an impressive 59:39 debut in Lille just one month ago. But he was the picture of experience as he, along with teammates Kitwara and Kipruto, kept the pressure on Tadese from behind.

The men’s contest was a bit more packed for the first half, with 15 men reaching the first five kilometres in 14:30. With Tadese at the front, about a dozen were still in contention at 10k, reached in 28:49.

Some six minutes later, the field was reduced to seven, and six minutes later a half dozen remained. By 15-k (42:49) only four were left – Tadese, Kipruto, Kitwara and Kiprop, who, running virtually side-by-side, had built a seven second cushion on Eritrean Samuel Tsegay and 12 on Kenyan Titus Masai. Moses Mosop, the fastest in the field this year, was 37 seconds behind the leaders at this point and well out of contention.

After Kitwara and Kipruto followed, Tsegay was next across the line, finishing fifth in 1:01:03 a season’s best, with Masai sixth in 1:01:24.

Living up to her favourite’s role, Florence Kiplagat kicked away from Dire Tune over the final 800 metres to capture an impressive victory.

Running in just her second Half Marathon, the 23-year-old Kenyan clocked 1:08:24 in hot and humid conditions to collect her second global title, adding to her triumph at the 2009 World Cross Country Championships.

“It was not easy with strong competition today,” said Kiplagat, whose debut over the distance came just over a month ago in Lille, France.

Kiplagat’s victory, the second straight individual title for Kenya, also propelled her nation to the team title, its fourth in the last five years and eighth overall. As expected, their chief rival was Ethiopia, the 2008 team champion, who were forced to settle for a fourth silver medal finish in the past five editions of these championships. But the battle they waged was a fierce one from the start.

 Just beyond the first kilometre marker, four Kenyans – Kiplagat, Peninan Arusei, Sarah Chepchirchir, and Joyce Chepkirui – were just a stride ahead of all five of Ethiopia’s entrants: Dire Tune, Feyse Tadese, Fate Tola, Abebech Afework, and Meseret Mengistu.

By 15 kilometres (48:42) the field was whittled down to just four - Kiplagat, Tadese, Tune and Arusei, with Tola drifting about four seconds behind and fading with every stride. About five minutes later the real race began when it came down to just Kiplagat and Tune.

Arusei finished third in 1:09:05 to take the bronze, also her first international medal.

A total prize money purse of $245,000 (122,500 each for the men's and women's races) was on offer, paid to the first six finishers.

The next World Half-Marathon Championships will be held in the Kavarna, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea coast, in 2012.