Kenya’s Visiline Jepkesho and Cyprian Kotut were dominant winners at the 40th edition of the Paris Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday morning (3).
Jepkesho, 28, scooped the biggest win of her career to date, coming home in 2:25:52 to take victory ahead of Ethiopians Gulume Tollesa (2:26:14) and Dinknesh Mekasha (2:28:12).
Kotut, meanwhile, followed in the footsteps of older brother Martin Lel – a three-time champion at the London Marathon – when speeding to victory in 2:07:11 ahead of Kenyan compatriots Laban Korir (2:07:29) and Stephen Chemlany (2:07:37).
As expected, the men’s race was a wide-open contest, with the battle for supremacy played out in the closing stages.
Headed by Cosmas Birech, Solomon Yego and Thomas Kiplagat, a large group of 15 runners went through 5km in 14:32, suggesting a possible finish time of about 2:03:00, but the rhythm soon slowed and the leading pack hit the 10km mark in 29:35. After passing the 20km checkpoint in 59:37, the three pacemakers distanced themselves from the rest of the group, with Ethiopia’s Azmeraw Mengistu a few metres behind and the chasing pack about 30 metres in arrears.
The main group went through halfway in 1:02:47, still on course to challenge the course record of 2:05:04 set by Kenenisa Bekele in 2014.
When the first of the pacemakers dropped out, Kiplagat and Yego still were at the front, a few seconds ahead of the favourite’s group, while defending champion Mark Korir started to fade before stepping off the course.
At 30km both remaining pacemakers stepped aside, leaving nine runners up front with a pair of Ethiopians and seven Kenyans still in contention. At this time, Laban Korir, who was sixth last year, was the first to ramp up the pace of the leading pack, but he didn’t manage to escape.
Then the group whittled down to seven at the instigation of Luka Kanda. The rhythm slowed down between 30km and 35km, the section covered in 15:22, which allowed the leading pack to remain compact with eight runners at the front.
At 38km, Gebretsadik Abraha – who finished third at the 2012 Amsterdam Marathon – produced a big surge and the rest of the field broke up behind him. Kotut controlled the attack and joined him at the front before making his move for victory. He created a small gap over Abraha, who quickly struggled to hold on and began to pay for his vicious surge.
Behind Kotut, Stephen Chemlany moved into second place and seemed to even be in contention for victory with three kilometres to run, but a resolute Kotut continued to kick on. At about 40km, his lead grew to 10 seconds over Chemlany and Laban Korir.
Kotut crossed the finish line all alone in 2:07:11, and afterwards admitted he didn’t expect to take such a major title with his relative lack of experience at the distance.
“It’s a bit surprising,” said Kotut, “but not so much as some of my training teammates ran well like Mike Kigen, who was second in Seoul in 2:05. But it’s my second experience at the marathon and I had that fear that I wouldn’t have so much experience. My objective was to run my personal best (2:08:55), so it’s perfect.”
Korir held on to take second place in 2:07:29 as Chemlany rounded out the podium eight seconds adrift. The first French runner to finish was Timothée Bommier, who was 13th in a personal best of 2:15:38.