Ottawa, CanadaLaban Moiben is becoming used to sprint finishes having won both the 2011 Ottawa Marathon and the 2012 Mumbai marathon January 15th by a scant few steps.
Today in Ottawa - an IAAF Silver Label Road Race - he held off fellow Kenyan Julius Karinga in a furious dash for the line winning in a personal best time of 2:09:13.
The time also beat Arata Fujiwara’s two-year-old course record of 2:09:33.
The 28-year-old Kenyan ran a smart tactical race buried in a pack of eight or so athletes through the first half of the race reached in 1:03:28. After the last of the pacemakers abandoned the race around 26 kilometres it was his countrymen Vincent Kiplagat and Daniel Rono who forced the pace opening a wide gap.
But Moiben, the defending Ottawa champion, ran alongside Karinga never appearing to be in trouble. When Kiplagat dropped Rono with five kilometres remaining Moiben and Karinga focused on them. In the last mile they passed their compatriots and it became a two-man race. Moiben simply had more in reserve.
"When we passed Rono and Kiplagat I knew I was going to have to kick to win the race," said the winner. "I was confident. When I was in the last kilometre I knew I would win the race. I know I have a good finish."
"Never have I seen Kiplagat. This was my first time racing him. I don’t know anything about him. I know about Rono, Kigen and the others. I was expecting competition from Vincent Kiplagat, Rono and Moses Kigen."
Moiben is no stranger to Canada having raced in Ottawa three times, as well as in Toronto and Montreal. When he arrived in Ottawa Wednesday evening he had flu-like symptoms, he said. But his health didn’t seem to be a factor today. And, he was full of praise for his Canadian hosts.
"Yes, I like very much Canada and Canadians," he declared. "I like the people and the community. I like the people because they invited me here and they cheer for me. But now I will celebrate with Kenyans. The Kenyan ambassador has invited us to his home for dinner."
The victory earned him US $20,000 plus another US $10,000 for the course record - not to mention an appearance fee befitting a defending champion.
The women’s race was a huge disappointment in comparison to the men’s. The heavily favoured Ethiopian Teyba Erkesso (2:23:53 personal best) experienced stomach problems that caused her a sleepless night. She went out hard, aiming for a 2:22 time but twice stopped at the side of the road with stomach cramps. At 14km or so, she was forced to abandon the race spending the next hour in a medical tent.
Yeshi Esayias, who ran 2:26:00 for second place at this year’s Tokyo Marathon, and fellow Ethiopian Biruktawit Degefa ran together through 30 kilometres (1:46:50) before Esayias pushed on alone in chase of the course record 2:27:41 held by Asmae Leghazoui of Morocco. In the end she fell short recording 2:28:46 for the victory.
"Running alone was difficult for me," the 26-year-old said, using her husband as interpreter. "I wanted to run alone the last part to try to break the course record but the weather made it a little bit difficult. Before the race I thought I could run 2:26 or 2:27."
Degefa, who has a best of 2:27:34, finished in 2:33:12 while Ruth Wanjiru of Kenya took third place in 2:33:17.
Wanjiru was also well off her personal best of 2:27:38.
The Ottawa race weekend included a record high of 42,000+ runners involved in distances such as a kid’s 1 kilometre race, a 5 km, Half Marathon and Marathon.