Prague, Czech RepublicExpectations were confounded as Kenya’s Agnes Kiprop won the women’s title in the VW Prague Marathon on Sunday (13) while the hopes of compatriot Lydia Cheromei of a 2:20 performance or better were dashed.
Kiprop, who had dropped out of the Boston Marathon last month, suffering from typhoid, won in 2:25:40 from Filomena Chepchirchir and Ethiopia’s Meseret Debele. Lydia Cheromei, caught by Kiprop between 38 and 39k, dropped out soon after, suffering from a leg injury.
Deressa Chimsa ran to form to win the men’s title in 2:06:25, the second fastest performance ever in Prague. He took command from shortly before 25k and beat the Kenyan duo of Stephen Tum and marathon debutant Philemon Limo.
The Volkswagen Prague Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label Race.
When the starting gun went off at 9 am in Prague’s Old Square, conditions were ideal for attacking the course record with the temperature at around 10 degrees Centigrade, barely a breath of wind and no rain forecast. Her own course record of 2:22:34, set last year, was clearly the target in Lydia Cheromei’s mind. In the race build-up she had given strong hints that a considerable improvement was on the cards, her morale boosted by training with the new Kenyan record holder, Mary Keitany.
Her confidence was high as she went through 10k in 32:47, a tempo which would have taken her to a 2:18 clocking and into the same realm of performance as Keitany.
Fellow Kenyans Agnes Kiprop and Filomena Chepchirchir maintained a consistent pursuit . At halfway, Cheromei was through in an impressive 1:09:22 so the dream of becoming the seventh woman – and fourth Kenyan - to break 2:20 this year was still feasible. Agnes Kiprop was one minute, four seconds behind and Chepchirchir a further 22 seconds adrift. The lead was maintained at 30k with Cheromei timed at 1:40:19 and Kiprop trailing by more than a minute.
The marathon can be a hard task master and the event turned its claws on Lydia Cheromei in the next few kilometres. Agnes Kiprop confessed her surprise, post-race, to find herself drawing alongside her training partner just after 38k.
"I didn’t expect it because I thought Lydia would win but when I caught her, she said, go on, I’m having problems with my leg."
Kiprop capitalised on the encouragement to win by almost a minute from Filomena Chepchirchir, reflecting that the wind coming off the River Vltva posed problems in the latter stages. Kiprop and Cheromei’s coach, the Italian Gabriele Nicola, must have been left with mixed emotions at their contrasting fates.
Victory marks a remarkable recovery for Agnes Kiprop, who dropped out of the Boston Marathon at 22k on April 16, suffering what was diagnosed later in Kenya as an attack of typhoid.
"I didn’t feel well when I was in Boston, but I received good treatment at home and now I’m happy for myself, yet, at the same time, unhappy for my friend and colleague Lydia [Cheromei] who was ready to run very well."
Deressa Chimsa carries a considerable amount of muscle on his upper body for a distance runner and he showed a prize fighter’s swagger in breaking away from a leading group of eleven shortly before 25k. The Ethiopian was the fastest man in the field on lifetime performances, having brought his best down to 2:05:42 for eighth place in Dubai on January 27. The group had gone through halfway in 1:02:54, right on cue for a performance which might threaten the course record of 2:05:39, set by the Kenyan Eliud Kiptanui two years ago.
Chimsa’s second surge broke the group down to five and then he assumed the role of solo runner par excellence, yet with a good 15k still to run. It was an all-Kenyan chasing pack of marathon debutant Philemon Limo, Stephen Tum, winner of Marrakech on his debut in January, Julius Arile Lomerinyang and Nephat Kinyanui.
The front runner continued to look strong as he went through 30k in 1:29:36 with the lead now eleven seconds and growing. A contest of attrition was developing for the podium places behind Chimsa, as Stephen Tum dealt Philemon Limo a lesson in coping with the latter stages.
Deressa Chimsa extended his lead to a winning 51 second margin, reflecting that however hard the last 10k felt, he was confident.
"I knew I was strong before the race. The training had gone so well, I could be confident."
Runner-up Stephen Tum was a happy man as well, having improved his winning debut in Marrakech on January 29 by one minute, 35 seconds.
Philemon Limo, the Prague 2011 half marathon champion, was in rueful mood afterwards, the effort showing in every sinew as ran the last couple of kilometres into the Old Square.
"Now I know what the marathon is about. I shall go away and train harder than ever before my next one."
In a year that marks the 60th anniversary since the Czech’s own distance running legend, Emil Zatopek, completed his epic Olympic triple triumph by winning the marathon in the Helsinki Games, this is a host city and nation that will particularly appreciate the debutant’s reflections.
Andy Edwards (organisers) for the IAAF
Men: 1. Deressa Chimsa ETH 2:06:25 2. Stephen Tum KEN 2:07:16 pb 3. Philemon Limo KEN 2:09:25 debut 4. Francis Bowen KEN 2:10:05 5. Nephat Kinyanui KEN 2:11:06 6. Julius Arile Lomerinyang KEN 2:12:13 7. Wirimai Juwawo ZIM 2:14:38 8. Teferei Bacha ETH 2:14:38 (correct)
Women: 1. Agnes Kiprop KEN 2:25:40 2. Filomena Chepchirchir KEN 2:26:50 3. Meseret Debekle ETH 2:27:15 pb 4. Salem Ait ALG 2:27:21 5. Misiker Mekonnin ETH 2:29:46 6. Silvia Skvortsova RUS 2:30:27