Edwin Kipngetich Koech took the honours at the EA7 Emporio Armani Milano Marathon, breaking the Italian all-comers’ record with 2:07:13 at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race on Sunday (2).
The 25-year-old Kenyan improved the fastest ever time on Italian soil set by his compatriot Benjamin Kiptoo in Rome with 2:07:17 in 2009. Meanwhile, compatriot Sheila Chepkoech produced a major surprise winning the women’s race in 2:29:52, breaking her personal best by more than 10 minutes.
Pacemakers Stefano La Rosa of Italy and Kenya’s Alex Korio and Joshua Kipkorir set a steady pace, going through the 10km mark in 30:03 ahead of an all-African pack formed by Edwin Koech, Eliud Bargnetuny Kiplagat, Kenneth Mungara and Henry Chirchir from Kenya and Abdela Godana from Ethiopia.
The seven-man pack went through at the halfway mark in 1:03.17, putting them on course for a sub-2:07 finish.
At 27km the leading pack was whittled down to five runners: Korio, Kipkorir, Mungara, Koech and Godana. Kipkorir was the first pacemaker to drop out at 28km, leaving Korio and Koech to go through 30km in 1:29:51, opening up a gap of four seconds over Mungara.
Koech broke away after 30km and continued to run at sub-2:06 pace, passing the 35km mark in 1:45:15. The Kenyan’s 1:50 lead over Mungara grew to more than two minutes by the finish as Koech crossed the finish line in 2:07:13.
Koech’s time smashed his previous personal best of 2:10:52 set in Verona last November. It also improved the previous course record of 2:07:53 set by Duncan Kibet in 2008.
Kenya’s 43-year-old Mungara, winner in Milan in 2015 and third in last year’s edition with a world M40 best of 2:08:38, finished runner-up, again dipping under 2:10 with 2:09:37 to finish ahead of Ehiopian Abdela Godana, who improved his PB by 92 seconds to 2:10:05. Italy’s European under-23 10,000m bronze medallist Yassine Rachik was the first European finisher, placing sixth in 2:13:22 on his debut at the distance.
“I am so proud to win this race,” said Koech. “I expected to break the course record, as my training indicated that I was in very good shape. I thank the organisers, who made an excellent job contributing to this result.”
Mungara was also delighted with his third consecutive podium finish in Milan. “It was a very good race,” he said. “I always expect to be the No.1 runner.”
Chepkoech leaves it late
While men’s winner Koech ran alone for much of the final 10 kilometres, the women’s race was only decided in the closing stages as 27-year-old Kenyan Sheila Chepkoech held off 2010 European champion and 2008 Milan Marathon winner Anna Incerti by six seconds.
A group of six runners comprising Ethiopians Halima Hassen, Waka Tafa Chaltu and Kenyans Rose Jepchumba, Sheila Chepkoech, Vivian Jerono Kiplagat and Anna Incerti went through 10km in 35:15.
Kiplagat, Jepchumba, Chepkoech, Faltu and Incerti ran at the front, going through at the halfway mark in 1:14:30 and 30km in 1:46:31.
Chepkoech and Incerti pulled away after 35km and built up a 14-second lead over Kiplagat at 38km, which they passed in 2:15:14.
Chepkoech and Incerti battled it out until 40km. Chepkoech ran at the front but Incerti did not give up and kept the pace with the Kenyan. Chepkoech broke away in a dramatic neck-and-neck sprint in the final kilometre before crossing the finish-line in 2:29:52. Incerti also dipped under 2:30 to finish runner-up in 2:29:58, the ninth sub-2:30 run of her career.
“I had a difficult period after the Olympic Games where I was forced to pull out of the race,” said 37-year-old Incerti. “This result gives me confidence for the future. I dedicate this second place to my daughter Martina. I ran the 16th marathon race of my career today and I really wanted to achieve a good result. I am happy as this result qualifies me for the World Championships in London.”
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
1 Edwin Koech (KEN) 2:07:13
2 Kenneth Mungara (KEN) 2:09:37
3 Abdela Godana (ETH) 2:10:05
4 Henry Chirchir (KEN) 2:10:20
5 Eliud Kiplagat (KEN) 2:10:23
6 Yassine Rachik (ITA) 2:13:22
1 Sheila Chepkoech (KEN) 2:29:52
2 Anna Incerti (ITA) 2:29:58
3 Waka Chaltu (ETH) 2:31:38
4 Vivian Kiplagat (KEN) 2:32:37
5 Halima Hassen (ETH) 2:33:49