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Kenyan Sweep at Honolulu Marathon

JOYCE CHEPKIRUI, FILEX ROTICH COMPLETE KENYAN SWEEP AT HONOLULU MARATHON
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom

(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)

HONOLULU
(13-Dec) — For the second consecutive year, Kenyans swept the wins
here at the 43rd Honolulu Marathon. Taking advantage of excellent racing
conditions –cool temperatures, no wind, and moderate humidity– Joyce
Chepkirui and Filex Kiprotich attacked the course eyeing fast times and
possible event records. Though they would fall short of the course
records, both earned impressive wins in 2:28:34 and 2:11:43,
respectively.

CHEPKIRUI DEFENDS TITLE, EARNS MEANINGFUL WIN

As
fireworks lit up the Hawaiian sky at Ala Moana Beach Park, Joyce
Chepkirui got off to a blazing start. Leaving the pacemaker in their
wake, Kenyans Chepkirui, Isabella Ochichi, and Lucy Karimi would roll
through Waikiki well under course record pace, splitting an improbable
33:21 at 10-K. Chepkirui thought a fast early tempo would play to her
advantage.

Just before halfway,
Chepkirui took the lead and slightly gapped her compatriots Ochichi and
Karimi. Splitting the half-marathon in an eye-popping 1:11:43 –believed
to be the fastest half-way split in race history– Chepkirui was
clicking off miles like a metronome. If she could keep this pace up, she
would finish minutes under Lyubov Denisova’s event record of 2:27:19.

However,
just like last year, the second half would slowly but surely catch up
to Chepkirui. In the 18th mile (29th kilometer) Karimi and Ochichi came
up on her shoulder, drawing even with the defending champion.

Overcoming
the building fatigue, Chepkirui relied on sheer determination to
complete the final miles: clear on her mind was here late manager Zane
Branson, who passed away suddenly this past July at the age of 57. He
was one of the first people to congratulate her after last year’s
victory.

“I loved Zane, and Zane was
like a brother,” said Chepkirui, who also won the Amsterdam Marathon
last October. When asked if she dedicated today’s race to him, she
responded with a firm, “Yes!”

Powering
down Diamond Head Road with less than a mile remaining, Chepkirui broke
away for good. She’d cross the finish first in 2:28:34 after running
second half in a gritty 1:16:51.

“I won
again and I feel happy. This was a great win today,” said Chepkirui, a
medal and flower lei resting on her neck. “It was my plan, because on
Wednesday I said I want to run 2:28 and I made it. I am so happy.”

Karimi finished second in 2:28:55, with Ochichi rounding out the top three in 2:29:44. The day, however, belonged to Chepkirui.

“By God’s will I’d like to come back again next year!” she said.

KIPROTICH RUNS AWAY WITH MEN’S TITLE

In
a word, Filex Kiprotich’s race could be described as calculated. The
27-year-old Kenyan played his cards perfectly, staying patient through
the early stages before unleashing a surprising surge at 30 kilometers.

Through
the half-marathon in 1:06:58 (much slower than the 1:05:30 organizers
had requested from the pacemaker), all pre-race favorites were in
contention: defending champion Wilson Chebet sat a meter off pacer
Samuel Ndungu’s shoulder, while masters world record holder Kenneth
Mungara and fellow Kenyan Kiprotich ran comfortably alongside. In all, a
group of six were tightly bunched.

Ndungu
stepped off the road at 30-K (18.6 miles) as his pacing duties were
complete, and the rest of the field grabbed their fluid bottles. Holding
his bottle firmly, Kiprotich stepped on the gas pedal and spread the
field thin, taking all by surprise with a quick surge. In the blink of
an eye he held a ten second lead.

Though
Mungara came up on his shoulder a mile later, he simply could not keep
pace with Kiprotich. Climbing up Diamond Head’s long hill from 37 to 40
kilometers, Kiprotich glanced back twice and saw no competitors. He
continued to press unaware how close he was to James Muindi’s event
record of 2:11:12.

“When I was at 30-K I planned to break the course record so I decided to go,” said Kiprotich, smiling. “I kept going.”

In
the end, Kiprotich would come up nearly a half minute shy of the record
breaking the finish tape in 2:11:43. Kiprotich’s margin of victory was a
minute and three seconds over Chebet (2:12:46), while Daniel Limo
finished third in 2:13:24.

“The weather
was not bad but the course is too hard! When I was at 35 (kilometers),
the course was difficult. There were a lot of hills,” he said.

Though disappointed not to retain his crown, Chebet gave credit to Kiprotich for maintaining the hard pace.

“When
the eventual winner tried to push the pace, I was expecting that maybe
he would not finish that pace. He was lucky because he tried to maintain
his pace and I tried my best to follow,” said Chebet, who added that
with nine kilometers left he believed he could catch Kiprotich. “I
congratulate him for the win.”

In
addition to the $40,000 winner’s check (same as Chepkirui in the women’s
race), Kiprotich will take home $10,000 in time bonus incentives.

A
total of 30,783 athletes entered the 43rd Honolulu Marathon. With no
time limit to complete the course, competitors will be coming through
the Kapiolani Park finish line throughout the late morning and
afternoon.   

PHOTO: Joyce Chepkirui winning the 2015 Honolulu Marathon in 2:28:34  

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