Kenyan distance runner Bedan Karoki on his way to victory (© Andrew McClanahan / organisers)
Kenya’s Bedan Karoki upset the Eritrean favourite and defending champion Zersenay Tadese in the fourth annual Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, to win in a new course record of 1:00:02 on Sunday (18).
Karoki, fifth in the London 2012 Olympic Games 10,000m, eclipsed the previous course record of 1:00:31 set by Tadese last year but was a frustrating four seconds short of his own personal best of 59:58 from Lisbon Half Marathon in March, where he made his debut over the distance.
With the thermometer reading almost 20 degrees Celsius at the start and 40% humidity, six men broke away early in the race and covered the first 5km in 14:17.
During the next 5km, three runners – the Kenyan trio of Patrick Mwaka, Edward Waweru and Cyrus Njui – lost contact with the leaders, leaving Karoki, Tadese and Ethiopia’s Abayneh Ayele together at the front.
Karoki, Tadese and Ayele passed 10km together in 28:25, then Karoki started to pull ahead of his two rivals Tadese and Ayele as they approached the 15km mark.
At 15km, which Karoki passed in 42:56, the Kenyan was four seconds ahead of Tadese, who in turn was eight seconds ahead of Ayele.
Karoki then moved up a gear and covered the next 5km segment between 15km and 20km in a blazing 14:03, while both Tadese and Ayele took over 15 minutes for the same distance.
By 20km, Karoki was 1:14 seconds ahead of second place Tadese, and the gap just continued to grow.
Karoki covered the final 1.0975km in 3:03 to he is now two-for-two so far in his short half marathon career.
For Tadese, his second place time of 1:01:34 was his slowest half marathon time since 2003, while Ayele came home nine seconds later for third place.
Mwaka, Waweru and Njui finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.
Mwaka recorded a personal best of 1:01:56, while improving from sixth place last year to fourth on Sunday. Waweru, half marathon debutante, ran 1:02:08 in his debut and Njui clocked 1:02:50.
The other sub-60 minute performer in the race, Mekubo Mogusu of Kenya, was eighth in a disappointing 1:03:08.
The women’s race produced an even bigger surprise as the 2014 Milano Marathon champion Visiline Jepkesho, upset her Kenyan compatriot and two-time IAAF World Championships marathon winner Edna Kiplagat, who was overwhelming favourite before the start of the race.
The two Kenyans quickly separated themselves from the rest of the women and, together, they passed 5km in 16:30, 10km in 33:27, 15km in 50:34 and 20km in 1:07:26.
In the final kilometre, Jepkesho proved to be the faster finisher and pulled away to win in 1:10:53, improving her personal best by almost a minute.
Kiplagat came home second in 1:11.18, perhaps still feeling her exertions from last month’s London Marathon in her legs, which she won in 2:20:21.
Yuko Mizuguchi finished third and was the first Japanese runner home but was more than three minutes behind Kiplagat in 1:14:31. The total number of finishers was 9452.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF