Henry Sugut notches up his third victory at the Vienna City Marathon (© Giancarlo Colombo)
Defending champion Henry Sugut won for the third time at the Vienna City Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, while Haile Gebrselassie did likewise in the Half-marathon and Filomena Cheyech triumphed in the women’s Marathon today (14).
Sugut’s performance was befitting of the occasion. It was the 30th edition of Austria’s biggest sporting event and the 27-year-old Kenyan added a piece of history to the event by becoming only the second athlete to win for a third time.
Back in the Eighties Austria’s Gerhard Hartmann triumphed three times in a row from 1985-1987. But of course the quality of the fields in those times cannot be compared with today’s standards – Hartmann’s best time in Vienna was 2:12:22 while Sugut needed to run around four minutes faster today.
Sugut, whose PB of 2:06:58 was set at this race last year, clocked 2:08:19 today in Vienna in fine but warm weather conditions. In a race dominated by Kenyans, Solomon Kiptoo was second with 2:08:34 while Geoffrey Ndungu took third in 2:08:42.
In the women’s race Flomena Cheyech improved by almost ten minutes. The 30-year-old Kenyan won with 2:24:34 and produced one of the biggest winning margins in the race’s history, finishing almost seven minutes ahead of Ethiopians Meskerem Assefa (2:31:18) and Eyerusalem Kuma (2:32:24). Kenya’s Emily Samoei followed in fourth place with 2:32:48.
But there was of course an Ethiopian winner as well on Sunday – Haile Gebrselassie took the OMV Champions Race in 61:14. This Half-marathon was staged parallel to the Marathon and it was Gebrselassie’s first race this year. Competing just four days short of his 40th birthday, Gebrselassie was well ahead of Kenya’s Hosea Kipkemboi (62:01) and Ethiopia’s Mekuant Ayenew (62:21) in a race he won for a third time in a row.
Sugut challenged by Kiptoo and Ndungu
After a very fast beginning with a 5km split of 14:46, the pace of the leading men soon dropped significantly and as the pack of eleven runners reached half way, the clock read 64:05. By that time the fastest man in the field, Jafred Kipchumba (2:05:48), had already lost contact and he later dropped out.
When eight runners passed 30km in 1:31:15, Sugut’s course record of 2:06:58 from 2012 was well out of reach. The defending champion then increased the pace and broke up the leading group.
Among those dropped were his training partner Gilbert Yegon, who finally finished fourth with 2:10:40, and Josphat Kamzee, who held on for a sub-2:11 clocking in fifth place (2:10:49). But Solomon Kiptoo and Geoffrey Ndungu managed to stay right behind Sugut.
“Between 36 and 37 kilometres I had a look at the other two,” said Sugut, who finally made his move with 2km to go. “They seemed strong and I thought: I need to put in more energy to win this.
“I am very proud to have won this for a third time,” he added. “It was a bit too warm for fast times.”
Cheyech comes from behind
Ethiopian runners were favourites for the women’s title, but in the end victory went to Kenya. Temperatures were still comfortable at the start (12°C in the shade) so the Ethiopians opted to run fast.
Passing 5km in 16:43 and 10km in 33:55, they were well within the 13-year-old course record of Italy’s Maura Viceconte (2:23:47). It was not long after the 10km mark when Eyerusalem Kuma slowed, leaving Meskerem Assefa as the only one to follow the pacemaker.
At 15km (50:58) the former 1500m runner was well ahead of Kuma (51:45) and Cheyech (52:31). But at half way (1:12:28) the situation had changed. While Assefa slowed, Cheyech had accelarated. The Kenyan had already passed Kuma and was only eleven seconds behind the leader.
Soon afterwards she reached Assefa and when she made her move at 27km the Ethiopian could not respond, leaving Cheyech to build up a big lead in the final third of the race.
Finishing in 2:24:34, the third-fastest time in the history of the Vienna City Marathon, Cheyech was almost seven minutes ahead of Assefa Meskerem (2:31:18). Only on three occasions (1984, 1993 and 2005) has there been a bigger winning margin in the women’s race in Vienna.
“I did not expect to run that fast today,” said Cheyech, who is a training partner of Kenyan record-holder Mary Keitany and who came to Vienna with a marathon PB of 2:34:13. “But I knew I was in good shape because I trained well in Kenya.” Her 67:39 win at the Roma-Ostia Half Marathon last month had indicated that she would be in contention for victory.
Gebrselassie: “I can still run faster”
Ethiopian superstar Haile Gebrselassie was cheered on by masses of spectators along the course, which may have been the cause of the fast first 5km of 14:06 minutes. Afterwards the pace dropped and the 39-year-old then left behind Hosea Kipkemboi and Mekuant Ayenew at the 10km mark (28:43).
However Gebrselassie was visibly working hard through the 15km marker and could not keep a fast enough pace for a sub-61 minute finish, crossing the finish line in 61:14.
“I wanted to run faster but it did not work today,” he said. “Maybe I should have started a bit slower, but I enjoyed the amazing atmosphere. I think I can still run faster than today.”
A record number of 41,326 runners entered the various events of the Vienna City Marathon, 10,588 of whom were Marathon runners.
Jörg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF
1 Henry Sugut (KEN) 2:08:19
2 Solomon Kiptoo (KEN) 2:08:34
3 Geoffrey Ndungu (KEN) 2:08:42
4 Gilbert Yegon (KEN) 2:10:40
5 Josphat Kamzee (KEN) 2:10:49
6 Edeo Mamo (ETH) 2:11:54
7 Ishmael Bushendich (KEN) 2:12:30
8 Luke Kibet (KEN) 2:15:16
1 Flomena Cheyech (KEN) 2:24:34
2 Meskerem Assefa (ETH) 2:31:18
3 Eyerusalem Kuma (ETH) 2:32:24
4 Emily Samoei (KEN) 2:32:48
5 Nonata Da Silva Cruz (BRA) 2:35:48
6 Michele Chagas (BRA) 2:38:59