The men's leaders during the 2016 Lattelecom Riga Marathon (© Organisers)
Kenya's Dominic Kangor smashed the course record when running 2:11:45 to win the men's race at Lattelecom Riga Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (15).
The women's title was won in commanding fashion by Ethiopia's Shitaye Gemechu, who ran 2:38:40 to take the crown ahead of Kenya's Divina Jepkosgei (2:40:01).
It was Kangor, though, who turned in the standout performance of the day. The 26-year-old's winning time eclipsed the course record of 2:12:28 set by Ethiopia's Haile Tolossa last year.
He was the fifth Kenyan in 26 years to take the men's title in Riga, and did so in impressive fashion, kicking away from Eritrea's Kaleab Selomon in the closing miles. Prior to this, Kangor's biggest success was his win at the Brighton Marathon in 2013, where he clocked a PB of 2:10:46. He has since lowered that to 2:09:36, which he ran to finish runner-up in Brighton a year later.
Since then Kangor has endured a series of near-misses in marathons, finishing runner-up in Macau, Kosice and once again in Brighton last year. In cool, overcast conditions in the Latvian capital on Sunday, he broke that run with a dominant display.
Back in second, Solomon clocked 2:12:21, taking more than two minutes off his personal best, which was run at the Dubai Marathon in 2015.
Kenya's Charles Maina took third in 2:13:54, not far off his PB of 2:13:19, which dates back to 2011.
The leading Latvian runner was Renars Roze, who fell agonisingly short of Olympic qualification when running 2:19:52 to place sixth. He had been targeting the qualifying standard of 2:19:00.
Gemechu a class apart in women's race
Though there was no course record in the women's race – that remains the 2:36:50 run by Tigist Teshome in 2014 – there was nonetheless a dominant display from Ethiopia's Shitaye Gemechu, who ran 2:38:40 to take victory. It was the sixth fastest winning time in the 26 years of the event.
At her best, Gemechu is a world class performer, holding a PB of 2:26:10 and listing the 2001 Amsterdam Marathon title among her achievements. The 35-year-old hasn't approached that time in recent years, but her 2:38:40 proved more than enough to take her first win in Riga.
She came home 81 seconds clear of Kenya's Divina Jepkosgei – second in 2:40:01 – with fellow Ethiopian Mulunesh Zwedu a distant third in 2:44:07.
The leading Latvian performer was Anita Kazemaka, who secured Olympic qualification in fourth place with her time of 2:44:09. The former race walker had previously come within five seconds of the Olympic qualifying mark at last month’s Vienna Marathon and this was the 25-year-old's final attempt at securing the time.
Kazemake, who competed in the marathon at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015, now appears likely to follow that by lining up in the Olympic marathon later this year.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF