Giraffe costumes seemed all the rage this year but ultimately Eddah Jepkosgei and Julius Kiplagat Korir stood head and shoulders above the rest in today’s Edinburgh Marathon as Kenyans again dominated the event.
With the mix of heat and winds providing a suitably stern test, 35-year-old Kiplagat Korir emerged as the strongest among a four-strong group of his compatriots who quickly broke away. The long-standing course record of 2:15:26 looked under threat but as the conditions turned against them, the African grouping was gradually whittled away until one remained.
Pre-race favourite Joel Kositany dropped out, then past runner-up Japhet Koech was next to fall off the front. Only Stanley Kiprotich Bett was left to threaten Kiplagat Korir but with four miles remaining a decisive break came and he cruised away to cross the line in Musselburgh in 2:17:13, one minute and 56 seconds clear with Koech returning to the podium in third.
“My plan was always to win the race,” Kiplagat Korir confirmed. “But I didn’t expect everyone to be so strong, especially in the opening part. The speed was pretty fast for the first 10 kilometres, moving out of the city.
“Then I had to use a lot of energy to keep going at that rate before I eventually pulled away. Once we went into the wind, we were talking about staying together to help get through it as a group. It was hard course with a lot of turns and long climbs. But the biggest challenge was the wind off the sea. That was not easy.”
An exhausted Jepkosgei pushed through fatigue to match her victory of 12 months earlier in a time of 2:37:46. Well ahead from early on, the Kenyan slashed two minutes off her 2016 time to end up with a huge margin over Belarus Olympian Olga Dubovskaya.
“It was a very tough race with the wind en route,” Jepkosgei said. “And the second half was much more difficult. The first part I was able to feel comfortable but when we reached the coast, I was struggling to keep up at the same pace.”
With Hayley Haining, last year’s runner-up, opting out after only eight miles, it was left to Dianne Lauder of Gala Harriers to provide a domestic highlight by coming third in 2:54:48. “I’m pleased with the result but not the time,” the Scot said. “I had to take a few stops and my head probably wasn’t in the right place. So to come in the top three is OK in those circumstances.”
Italy’s Pasquale Roberto Rutigliano won the adjoining Edinburgh Half Marathon in 1:09:39 ahead of Patryk Gierjatowicz and Arron Larkin while Scottish veteran Avril Mason landed the women’s title in 1:19:49 by a mere eight seconds from Molly Browne.
Meanwhile, Capital star Lynsey Sharp was eighth in the 800 metres at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon while Edinburgh Athletic Club’s Chris O’Hare took second in the invitational mile in an outdoor personal best of 3:53.34, good enough for third on the all-time Scottish list. “I’m disappointed not to come away with the win,” he said. “Allergies got the best of my breathing.”
Their Edinburgh AC club-mate Jake Wightman won the 1500 metres at the IFAM meeting in Oordegem, Flanders, in 3:35.93, seven-hundredths of a second inside the World Championship qualifying standard. Lasswade’s Guy Learmonth opened his season with second place behind Markhim Lonsdale in the 800 metres at the BMC Grand Prix at Sports City, Manchester, in 1:48.22. “Things are going good,” said Learmonth, who will now head for Bydgoszcz, Poland, on Friday. “It’s just getting the legs moving properly now.”