The Chicago marathon had two amazingly different races, both very satisfying to observe. The women's race showed the amazing fitness and joy in running of Florence Kiplagat. The men's race showed how much pace making has permeated men's races, so that, in many cases, they become a time trial for most of the race. In Chicago, the men's race has surges and reactions, ebbs and flows, and a fine marathoner, winless since 2011, won his first big marathon in the US. That marathoner was Abel Kirui.
Justin Lagat wrote this fine piece, and provided us, as our friend does, another view from Kenya.
Kenyans dominated the Chicago marathon this past Sunday (Oct. 9) with men taking the first five positions, while women took the first four.
But, if there is one athlete who must have felt the greatest joy after the Chicago marathon, then it would be the two times world champion, Abel Kirui.
Kirui had failed to win any marathon since he defended his world title in 2011. Sometimes, he would get injuries close to his major races and at other times, he would fall sick and would drop out of his major races. This led to him being left out of Kenya's teams to world major events, despite him proving in the first that he was a championship athlete. The competition for a place in Kenya's teams is always competitive and selectors always have to use the results of major marathons to name athletes into the team.
The Chicago Marathon, with the absence of pace setters, provided a race that was more of a championship competition, and Kirui took the opportunity to come back into the spotlight again.
In a race that started out quite slowly, but built up into an electrifying climax, Kirui fought hard with Gideon Kipketer and the defending champion, Dickson Chumba in the last stages of the race to emerge the winner. Kipketer was the first to drop behind from the relentless pace as Kirui and Chumba exchanged the lead, each of them trying to break away from the other without success.
The determination of the two athletes to win was strong and it was only in the last few hundred meters that a small gap began to appear between the two, as Kirui went ahead to cut the tape in 2:11:23. Chumba followed to take second in 2:11:26 while Gideon Kipketer took third in 2:12:20.
Kirui said later about the race, "It was a matter of life and death."
He now hopes that this win will influence his manager to enter him in London Marathon where he will hopefully meet the "three guys"; Kenenisa Bekele, Eliud Kipchoge and Wilson Kipsang.
The women race, unlike for the men, started out quite fast. Florence Kiplagat took off from the rest of the field at 30km and that was when they followed her in a single file. This was to prove that she had a lot of confidence coming into this race, and in a way also wanted to answer the Kenyan selectors for leaving her out of Kenya's team to Rio Olympic Games.
Towards the end of the race, Kiplagat looked back a number of times to check if anyone was following her, but could see none. She went ahead to cross the finish in 2:21.32. Edna Kiplagat followed almost two minutes later to take second place in 2:23:28 while another Kenyan, Valentine Kipketer came third in 2:23:41.
The third places in the two races coincincidentally went to siblings; Gideon Kipketer and Valentine Kipketer, who also coincidentally hold the men and women course records for Mumbai marathon.
Also, worth noting is that after two of his athletes won both the men and women races in Chicago, Renato Canova is now arguably one of the best marathon coach in the world at the moment.
Meanwhile in Kenya, Peres Jepchirchir and Jorum Lumbasi won one of the most competitive half marathon races in Kenya; the Family Bank Eldoret half marathon.
Author: Since 2013, Justin Lagat has written for RunBlogRun. His weekly column is called A View from Kenya. Justin writes about the world of Kenyan athletics on a weekly basis and during championships, provides us additional insights into the sport. Find his website HERE.