Amos Matui had a welcome wedding present for his soon
to be wife, Benedicta, when the Kenyan won the Standard Chartered Singapore
Marathon on Sunday morning, breaking the course record by over a minute, with
2.15.55 in torrid conditions. And earning himself $25,000. Matui, who will get
married in early February, only took the lead 200 metres from the finish line,
but it was a decisive move, since he left long-time leader, Ashebir Demissu of Ethiopia 25 metres back.
Despite temperatures rising to 30C (86F), with over
80% humidity at the 6am start, the first five men and the first two women all
broke course records in the event. But it was a close run thing in the men’s
race. Demissu had been forcing the pace for the final 10k, but he couldn’t
shake off Matui, and when Matui saw the finish line 200 metres ahead, he
launched a sprint that Demissu couldn’t match. The Ethiopian clocked 2.15.58,
with another Kenyan, Joseph Ngolepus in third in 2.16.34.
“It was good that we worked together at first,” said
the 31 year old Matui after the race, “because it was very hot and humid. There
were about 12 of us at halfway, and still eight at 38k, then the Ethiopian made
a break. I stayed close behind him, but I wasn’t sure of winning until I crossed
This was the first victory in a seven marathon career
thus far for the Kenyan from Kitale in the Rift Valley, who trains with Martin
Lel, winner of both the New York and London Marathons. Matui only started
running five years ago, and had his first international race in 2002. He says
he would now like to run one of the big marathons, “Boston, London or New York”.
Demissu was philosophical about his defeat. “I thought
I’d won with a kilometre to go, but with 200 metres left, he was too strong. My
problem is my finishing”. The 26 year old must be one of the few Ethiopians
without a sprint finish, the more embarrassing since he comes from the same
Arsi province in the south of Ethiopia as Haile Gebrselassie and the new king
of distance, Kenenisa Bekele, both of whom know how to blow away the opposition
in the final metres.
For the rest, it was Kenyans all the way. Emmanuel
Kosgei was fourth in 2.16.49. And former winner (2003) and one-time Singapore resident, John Kelai, who has run this race four
times said, “I think these were the hottest conditions I’ve run in here. It was
actually more humid at the start than later”. Kelai was that rarest of Kenyans,
a triathlete, when he lived in Singapore, but he said, “I decided to concentrate on running,
so I went back to live in Kenya”. Kelai in fifth was also inside the record of
2.17.02, set last year by another compatriot, Philip Tanui, who was down the
field this year.
It looked like a Kenyan double for a long time, and a
successful defence of her title for Helen Cherono, but she wilted in the last
ten kilometres, and conceded victory to the veteran Russian, Irina Timofeyeva,
who won in 2.34.37. An exhausted Cherono was second in 2.35.12, with another
Russian, Sylvia Skvorsova third in 2.36.46. But the top two broke the
course record of current world half-marathon champion, Contantina Dita, who ran
2.36.06 in 2002.
Emmanuel KOSGEI KEN
5 John KELAI