Salina Kosgei wins the 2006 Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (© c)
Salina Kosgei of Kenya, this year’s Berlin Marathon runner-up, was the star of the show at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon early this morning.
Kosgei, 29 was favourite to win the women’s race, but the elegant Kenyan delivered the goods in style, breaking the course record by almost three minutes, in 2:31:55, an exceptional time in the conditions, 25C heat and close to 100% humidity right from the 6am start.
There was another course record in the men’s race – for the third year in succession – and the first repeat winner in the history of the event, when Amos Matui of Kenya again beat Ashebir Demissu of Ethiopia in the final stages, to win in 2:15:01.
Whereas Matui and Demissu made it a race right to the final kilometre, Kosgei’s was virtually a solo run to victory. She stayed with the lead group, including last year’s winner, Irina Timofeyeva of Russia over the first seven kilometres, before making a break.
“I was feeling quite easy, and I realised the weather conditions were good for here, so I decided to take the lead. But I still made sure I drank lots of water,” said Kosgei at the finish, where she was so untroubled that was able to chat with fans, and pose for pictures with husband, Barnabas Kinyor, 1990 Commonwealth 400mH bronze medallist, and their two children, Billy, 10, and Ruth, 4. All around her, athletes were prostrate from heat exhaustion.
Yet, as Kosgei, the 2002 Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion, indicated, it was relatively cool and overcast by Singaporean standards, compared to last year, for example, when temperatures reached close to 30C in bright sunshine. That will make her performance such a difficult one to match. “I think I could have been under 2:30 in ‘normal’ conditions,” she said, a reserved observation since she finished second in Berlin three months ago, in a personal best of 2:23:22.
Timofeyeva suffered from foot problems in the final stage, and limped across the line. Nevertheless, she was half a dozen seconds faster than her winning time last year, with 2:34:35. “I ran Paris in these shoes, without any problem” she said through an interpreter afterwards. “But the soles were too thin for the road surface here. But I couldn’t have challenged the winner anyway,” she admitted.
Emily Kimuria of Kenya was third in 2:38:37.
The men’s race was virtually a carbon copy of last year, except that Demissu never went clear, as he did with 10k to run in 2005. Matui caught him in the last 200 metres then. But the Kenyan decided to make absolutely sure this year, and took off at 41k. He was ‘flying’ at the finish, and rewarded with the cachet of first repeat winner of either race.
“I wasn’t confident I would win, but I decided to stay with the Ethiopian after 25k this year. I was really trying in the last kilometre,” said Matui. “I’m going to go back home, sit down and have a think, then decide what my plans are. But I’d like to run in Boston or London next year”.
Demissu was philosophical about his successive second place here, in 2:15:08. “He beat me last year, he beat me this year,” he said shrugging, as if to say, ‘what can I say?’ “It was still a fantastic race, easier than last year, but still hot”. He plans to run Paris next spring.
Abel Kirui ran Berlin as a pacemaker in September, and went on to finish in just over 2:17, so this was effectively his first serious marathon, the Kenyan acquitting himself better than the other two dozen of his compatriots who made the long trip east. Kirui, who trains with New York and Boston winner, Rogers Rop was third in 2:15:22. All three beat Matui’s course record of 2:15:57 from last year.
Kosgei and Matui won US$25,000 for their victories, out of a prize pot of close to $150,000, and it was Kenyans all the way, with winners in both races, and eight of the men’s top ten. The second wave of popular marathoning has certainly made its mark in south-east Asia. Overall entries for the full and half marathon, and 10k were 30% up this year, with over 30,000 runners.
Pat Butcher for the IAAF
1 Amos MUTAI KEN 2:15:01
2 Ashebier DEMISSU ETH 2:15:08
3 Abel KIRUI KEN 2:15:22
4 Eric YETOR ETH 2:16:33
5 Francis KIPROP KEN 2:18:22
6 David KIPTANUI KEN 2:19:02
7 Charles YABEI KEN 2:19:34
8 Paul KIPTANUI KEN 2:20:58
1 Salina KOSGEI KEN 2:31:55
2 Irina TIMOFEYEVA RUS 2:34:35
3 Emily KIMURIA KEN 2:38:37
4 Rose NYANGACHA KEN 2:39:42
5 Kotu GEMEDA ETH 2:43:40
6 Pa PA MYA 2:47:59
7 Banuelia KATESWIGA TAN 2:48:26
8 Doruta GRUCA POL 2:50:06