Mary Keitany wins the Olomouc Half Marathon (© Mattoni Olomouc Half Marathon)
Mary Keitany emerged triumphant from the Mattoni Olomouc Half Marathon to break the course record by more than two minutes, while Josphat Kiptis upstaged his more experienced rivals to win the men’s contest at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Saturday (20).
Keitany clocked 1:06:38 for her eighth sub-67-minute performance for the distance. To put that in perspective, no other woman – including world record-holder Florence Kiplagat, four-time world half-marathon champion Lornah Kiplagat and marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe – has bettered that mark on more than three occasions.
Kiptis, meanwhile, achieved a big PB of 1:00:21, but the quality of the field that he beat was more significant than his winning time as he defeated Olympic marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich and former marathon world record-holder Wilson Kipsang.
Keitany front-runs to victory
Keitany would have missed the train which took the elite runners from Prague to Olomouc on Thursday had RunCzech’s international race co-ordinator Jana Moberly not kept the train doors open. But on Saturday Keitany timed her race to perfection.
Thousands of spectators lining the route saw Keitany put on a show of the highest class. The 33-year-old dictated the pace from the start and had a clear lead after just a few kilometres. After a terrific early pace – her 5km split of 15:16 was well inside world record schedule – Keitany slowed somewhat but still increased her lead.
Paced by her husband Charles Koech, she finished so fast that officials didn’t have time to get the women’s finishing tape in position. The 2009 world half-marathon champion crossed the line in 1:06:38 to take 2:15 off the course record that had been set by two-time world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat.
“It was a great race, I enjoyed it,” said Keitany, who has now won 17 of her 19 career half marathons.
The former world record-holder for the half marathon will now return to Kenya and decide which race she will run this autumn. “I’ll do races between September and November,” said the two-time London Marathon champion. “I want to win the gold medal in the marathon at the Olympic Games in Rio next year.”
In second, Rose Chelimo only missed her personal best by eleven seconds with her time of 1:08:33, while third-placed Angela Tanui ran her fastest ever with 1:08:41. Helah Kiprop ensured a Kenyan sweep of the top four positions, clocking 1:09:25.
Kipsang upstaged again
Olomouc is rapidly establishing a reputation as a place where surprises can happen, especially for previously little-known athletes keen to make a breakthrough.
Last year Kenya’s Geoffrey Ronoh caused a sensation in beating his big-name compatriots Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto. This time it was the turn of Josphat Kiptis to garner the plaudits in an action-packed race in Olomouc.
Kiptis not only left former marathon world record-holder Kipsang and Olympic marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich far behind but also a further seven runners with faster pre-race personal bests than the 21-year-old Kenyan.
After eight kilometres, Kiptis together with Cosmas Birech and Jonathan Maiyo had pulled clear of their more established rivals. The trio stayed together for a long time before first Birech lost contact and then, two kilometres from the finish, Maiyo could no longer match the newcomer.
“I’m delighted to have set a personal best,” said Kiptis, whose winning time of 1:00:21 was only four seconds outside the course record.
“I knew that I would be facing a former world record-holder and an Olympic champion, but I feared no one because I had prepared very well,” added the 2013 African junior 10,000m bronze medallist.
Maiyo finished runner-up in 1:00:32 while Birech held on for third place in 1:01:01, more than a minute ahead of Felix Kandie in a race where Kenyan athletes filled the top five places.
Kipsang, who had been suffering from stomach problems and had to vomit during the race, trailed in fifth in 1:02:09 while Kiprotich was 10th in 1:03:07.
Organisers for the IAAF
1 Josphat Kiptis (KEN) 1:00:21
2 Jonathan Maiyo (KEN) 1:00:32
3 Cosmas Birech (KEN) 1:01:01
4 Felix Kandie (KEN) 1:02:05
5 Wilson Kipsang (KEN) 1:02:09
6 Atalay Yirsaw (ETH) 1:02:12
7 Polat Arikan (TUR) 1:02:12
8 Essa Rashed (QAT) 1:02:25
1 Mary Keitany (KEN) 1:06:38
2 Rose Chelimo (KEN) 1:08:33
3 Angela Tanui (KEN) 1:08:41
4 Helah Kiprop (KEN) 1:09:25
5 Eunice Chumba (BRN) 1:10:50
6 Lucy Karimi (KEN) 1:11:33
7 Atsedu Habtamu (ETH) 1:11:47
8 Viola Jelagat (KEN) 1:12:35