Just two weeks after her fourth place finish at the IAAF/EDF Energy World Half Marathon Championships, Kenyan Caroline Cheptanui Kilel cruised to a 2:25:24 victory at the 14th Ljubljana Marathon on Sunday.
Contesting her sixth marathon, the 28-year-old shattered her previous personal best of 2:30:22 set in Venice six years ago by nearly five minutes to land firmly within the world’s top-15 for 2009.
Arriving just 14 days after her career best 1:08:16 half-marathon performance in Birmingham, the year’s fourth quickest time, Kilel was confident about her condition but was a little uncertain about how such a short recovery time would affect her two-lap tour of the Slovenian capital.
“I only had two weeks to regenerate so I just mostly relaxed in recent days,” said Kilel, whose modest pre-race ambitions were little more than breaking the 2:30 barrier. A best case scenario, she said on Friday, would be coming through the first half in under 1:13 and closing with a 1:15:00 in the second.
Kilel was running comfortably in the lead group of four which reached the midway point in 1:12:45, well within her stated intentions. Leading the women’s pack from the front was a face quite familiar to her: her husband, Vincent Kipkemboi, who set the tone through 30 kilometres (1:43:30). Feeling strong, she apparently told him that she needed some space.
Smiling broadly, Kilel said, “I told him, ‘Now I want to be by myself.’”
Five kilometres later she dropped eventual runner-up Tetyana Filonyuk of Ukraine, the winner here in 2007. Still on 2:25 pace and running alone, Kilel decided to give it her all over the waning stages. “At 40K I saw that my time was good so I just started pushing.”
Although she emphasized that she didn’t feel any fatigue from her Birmingham race, she did admit she was missing a little bounce in her step over the final few kilometres. “If I had two more weeks to recover, I think I could have run 2:23,” she said.
Filonyuk, 25, held on for second, clocking 2:26:55, well under her previous personal best of 2:27:43 from the Rome Marathon earlier this year where she also finished second.
“I ran one hundred percent, today,” Filonyuk said. “Everything was perfect and I really thought I could win, but Caroline was too strong at the end.”
Salomie Getnet of Ethiopia was third in 2:31:15, a career best by nearly two minutes, and she also dipped under the previous Ljubljana record of 2:32:33 set by Slovenia record holder Helena Javornik in 1998.
Biama leads three under 2:11 – men’s race
The men’s race also ended with an event record, but fell just shy of organisers’ hopes of the city’s first sub-2:10 performance.
Solid pace-setting kept the tempo on target through 35 kilometres, with five men remaining in solid contention. But it was sub-2:10 man William Biama of Kenya who was clearly the strongest. He left the last apparent challenger, his compatriot William Kwambai Kipchumba, behind by the 40 kilometre marker, before another threat emerged.
Picking off one runner after another, Iaroslav Musinschi of Moldova bounced back into contention and nearly stride-for-stride with Biama with less than 400 metres remaining.
But the Kenyan had little trouble with the unexpected challenge to win in 2:10:12, just 19 seconds shy of his career best set at the 2007 Kosice Peace Marathon.
“We really did try to push hard,” said the 25-year-old Biama. “Next time I want to run under 2:09.”
Musinschi clocked 2:10:15, a minute-and-a-half improvement over his previous career best, to finish second. Kipchumba, who set a 2:09:41 course record at the Jaarbeurs Marathon in Utrecht in April, was third in 2:10:52. The first six finishers all dipped under the 2:12:49 event record set by Ukrainian Oleksandr Sitkovskiyy in 2007.
The race, run in ideal conditions on a new more picturesque course, was also the farewell marathon for Slovenian record holder (2:11:50, 2000) Roman Kejžar. The 42-year-old, a three-time Olympian, was 12th overall in 2:19:24.
Including Saturday’s children’s races and Sunday’s marathon, half-marathon and 9.2Km fun run, just under 20,000 people participated, approximately eight percent of the Slovenian capital’s population.