Burundese Ezechiel Nizigiymana (58:12) and Kenyan Cynthia Jerotich (1:05:36) won the 34rd edition of the 20 Kilomètres de Paris, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race under a heavy rain on Sunday morning.
24,000 runners lined up at Pont d’Iena, besides the Eiffel Tour for the 20 km circuit. The race records by Kenyans Evans Cheruiyot (57:19 in 2005) and Hellen Kimutai (1:05:28 in 2000) were unlikely to be broken as the rain was falling hard on the French Capital. The design of the course had been slightly modified; however, it still starts with a huge uphill during the first kilometre into a long downhill towards Bois de Boulogne, the easiest part of the race, hidden from the wind.
In the absence of 2011 and 2012 winner John Mwangangi Nzau, other Kenyans Geoffrey Kenesi, Alexander Tidony and Loritenyang Pkumun Mekelinyang were among the favourites for the win. They were challenged by the Eritrean contingent: Estifanos Tewelde, Michael Tesfay and Tekle Mekonen.
After a cautious start on the slippery pavement, the pack, led by Kenyan outsider Hosea Naelel, crossed the Bois in the anti-clockwise loop joining the bans of the Seine. There starts a 4 km long slope where Naelel opened the gap and reached the half-way in 28:55. At the 13th kilometre, near Garigliano’s bridge, Naelel was caught by the followers. The positions remained unchanged until another Kenyan, Evans Kiplagat, injected a sudden acceleration besides the Jardin des Tuilleries, in the last difficult portion of the race, opening a 30m lead over the seven other runners still in contention. His teammate Alfred Cherop and Burundese Ezechiel Nizigiymana were the only one to resist and try to fill the gap. Nizigiymana, who had had up to 50m late, managed to catch Kiplagat in the last kilometre and won in the excellent time – given the weather conditions – of 58:12. This was the first ever victory for Burundi in Paris.
In the women’s race, a group of 10 runners emerged after 5km. Among them was favourite Elvan Abeylegesse (Turkey), Olympic silver medallist at 5000m and 10,000m in 2008 and back from pregnancy. For her debut at 20km, she stayed in front and by the half-way, only three other girls could pretend to the victory: Kenyans Cynthia Jerotich, Gladys Kipsoi and Polish Iwona Lewandowska.
After Alma’s bridge, Abeylegesse managed to get a rid of all of them except Jerotich. Those two remained shoulder to shoulder until the last kilometre where the Kenyans eventually accelerated to win in 1:05:36, missing the course record by only 8 seconds.