Kenyan Joyce Chepkirui fulfilled the expectations and clocked a world-class time of 66:19 to win the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon on Saturday.
Dominating the race from the start, she set a course record and also the fifth fastest time ever run on a record eligible course. Fellow-Kenyan Emily Chebet took second in 68:28 and Ethiopia’s Wude Ayalew followed in third with 69:23.
The men’s race also produced very fast times in fine weather conditions with all three men on the podium setting personal bests.
Kenya’s Peter Kirui dominated the race and was rewarded with a personal best of 59:22, the sixth fastest in this year. Mosinet Geremew of Ethiopia was second with 59:54 and Kenya’s Daniel Wanjiru followed in 59:59.
With regard to the two winning times the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon produced the best race of the year so far. 12,500 runners entered the event, which is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
Chasing an even faster time of sub 66 minutes Joyce Chepkirui burst away from her rivals right after the start. Guided by her pacemaker Erick Kibet, who is both husband and coach, the Kenyan clocked fast split times of 15:16 minutes for 5k and 30:56 for 10.
These times even pointed towards the world record of 65:12, set by Chepkirui’s training partner Florence Kiplagat in Barcelona earlier this year. “I was feeling fine at 5k, 10k and also 15k,” the 25 year-old winner later explained.
However she had slowed in the third 5 k section and the world record was out of reach when she passed the 15 k mark in 46:49. But there was no question as to who would win the race. Chepkirui was around 90 seconds ahead of Chebet and Ayalew with 5 k to go.
“I hoped to run under 66 minutes, but the last kilometre was getting very tough. But I am of course very happy to have won this race with a course record and a personal best,” said Joyce Chepkirui, who earned 34,000 Euros in total, including time and course record bonuses, for her 66:19 performance.
The Kenyan had already set a course record and a PB in Prague two years ago with 67:03. Additionally she continued a unique Kenyan series in the Czech capital: It was the fourth time in a row that the women’s course record was broken in the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon.
In 2011 Lydia Cheromei ran 67:33, then came Chepkirui with 67:03 and a year ago Gladys Cherono clocked 66:48. The depth of the elite results also was extraordinary today: Five women finished inside 70 minutes.
It was a strong field, so I was surprised that none went with me.
The men were running fast from the beginning as well, always on course for a time of around 59 minutes. A group of eight athletes passed the 10 k mark in 28:07 behind Kenyan pacemaker Hillary Kipchumba. When Peter Kirui moved away in the 14th kilometre he was soon all on his own.
“It was a strong field, so I was surprised that none went with me,” said the 26 year-old, who had entered the race with a personal best of 59:39. At the 15 k mark which he passed in 42:01 Kirui was already 15 seconds ahead of a chasing group of four runners.
His advantage over Ethiopia’s Mosinet Geremew, Daniel Wanjiru – the latter no relation to the late, great Sammy –, Nicholas Kipkemboi and Henry Kiplagat was growing. And in the finish he was 32 seconds clear of his nearest rival.
“I tried hard to run a personal best, because the conditions were very good. At 15 k I still felt fine and knew that I could win the race,” said Peter Kirui, who had not expected such a strong performance, because he was undergoing a training course at the police academy in Nairobi, alongside the former marathon world record holder Patrick Makau.
He´ll soon be known as constable Kirui but then it will be back to full training for athletics and a different kind of promotion. “May be I could go for the world half marathon record. I might come back to Prague next year and try,” said Peter Kirui, who earned 19.000 Euros including time bonus.
There was success for the newly formed Run Czech Racing team as well. Kenya’s team member Nicholas Bor (Kenya) clocked a personal best of 61:25 in eighth place while Million Feysa of Ethiopia followed in ninth with a debut time of 61:26.
- Peter Kirui KEN 59:22
- Mosinet Geremew ETH 59:54
- Daniel Wanjiru KEN 59:59
- Nicholas Kipkemboi KEN 60:11
- Henry Kiplagat KEN 60:24
- Bernard Bett KEN 60:47
- Evans Kiplagat Barkowet KEN 60:55
- Nicholas Bor KEN 61:25
- Million Feysa ETH 61:26
- Hunegnaw Mesfin ETH 71:50
- Joyce Chepkirui KEN 66:19
- Emily Chebet KEN 68:26
- Wude Ayalew ETH 69:23
- Esther Chemtai KEN 69:49
- Afera Godfay ETH 69:52
- Waganesh Mekasha ETH 70:23
- Betelhem Moges ETH 70:37
- Bouchra Ghezielle FRA 71:04
- Firehiwot Dado ETH 71:15
- Natalya Popkova RUS 73:58