Kenya’s Florence Kiplagat once again took an overwhelming victory at the eDreams Mitja Marato Barcelona, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, winning comfortably in 1:08:15 on Sunday (12).
Her time was more than three minutes outside the half marathon world record of 1:05:06 set by her compatriot Peres Jepchirchir in Ras Al Khaimah last Friday, but Kiplagat – who broke the world record at this race in 2014 and 2015 – had stated before the race that she was not targeting a world record.
The windy conditions clearly hampered the athletes’ efforts. Paced by Kenyan Dickson Kipchumba and Spain’s Marc Roig, Kiplagat had requested a steady 3:10 steady pace with them for the first half of the race. As agreed, the trio reached the 5km point in 15:47, 37 seconds ahead of the chasing group formed by USA’s Sara Hall, Ethiopia’s Kuma Dibaba, Ireland’s Fionnuala Mc Cormack and Portugal’s Jessica Augusto.
After covering the second five-kilometre segment in 16:03, Kiplagat reached 10km in 31:50 while Dibaba and Hall trailed behind by 68 seconds, themselves 11 seconds ahead of Augusto and 25 clear of McCormack.
Although Kiplagat’s pace dropped further in the second half, she increased her advantage over Dibaba to 94 seconds. Augusto was in third another 20 seconds back but eight seconds clear of Hall in fourth.
At the tape, the former world record-holder signed her fourth win in a row in Barcelona with a relatively modest – by her own lofty standards – 1:08:15, more than a minute quicker than her winning run in Barcelona last year.
Dibaba finished second in 1:09:49 while Augusto took the third place on the podium in 1:10:36, some 43 seconds ahead of a fading Hall with McCormack completing the top five in 1:11:35.
“I’m satisfied with my win but also a little bit disappointed as the wind has annoyed me a lot,” said Kiplagat, who will turn 30 later this month. “I would have liked to run under 1:06 today but at this early stage of the season I’m not at my peak as I’m still in full preparation for the London Marathon in April. I love to come back to Barcelona every year; I realise people already know me and really appreciate me.
“It’s OK, records are there to be broken,” she added when asked about Jepchirchir’s world record earlier in the week. “I’m now happy for her and we’ll try to regain the record in the future.”
Held in conjunction with the women’s race, the men’s contest kicked off at a brisk pace with the hopes of bringing the 1:00:04 course record within 60 minutes.
The Kenyan quintet of Meshak Koech, Leonard Langat, Abel Kirui and Joel Kimurer ran alongside Ethiopia’s Zewdi Million Yehualashet in the footsteps of pacemaker Victor Kimutai Chumo who led them through the first five kilometres in 14:18. But the 10km clocking of 28:45 suggested the pre-race target was already out of reach. Yehualashet had lost ground at that point, so a Kenyan podium sweep was guaranteed.
Once the pacemaker Chumo pulled out of the race, Koech, Langat and Kimurer went through the 15km point in 43:15 while two-time world marathon champion Kirui ran 16 seconds behind the leading trio. They passed 20km in 57:53 and the key movement came during the closing kilometre when Langat broke away from Koech and Kimurer to cross the finish line victorious in 1:00:52.
Koech – whose only notable performance before today was a 2:18:58 marathon clocking last year - was a surprisingly close second in 1:00:54 while Kimurer also finished within 61 minutes. Kirui, the 2012 Olympic silver medallist, was fourth in 1:01:30.
“My target was to run inside 60 minutes but it was not possible because of the wind,” said Langat, who was contesting just his second race in Spain following an appearance at the 2011 Valencia Half Marathon. “Anyway, the circuit is flat and very fast so I would like to return next year.”