Kipkirui tops elite women eyeing course record at Prague Half marathon

By John Kwoba

NAIROBI, March 8 (Xinhua) — Caroline Kipkirui will seek solace in winning the Prague Half marathon on April 7 after she was failed to be considered for the World Half Marathon in Valencia.

Kipkirui, who holds a fast time of 65.07, had high hopes of competing in Valencia, Spain on March 24, but was not called to the national team and must now forward he frustration to clinching the title in Czech Republic road race.

Kipkirui’s time was set this year at the Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates in January, which makes her the fifth fastest women in history while another Kenyan Joan Chelimo holds the eighth fastest woman time with 1:05:37 in the same race.

“It is always an honor to represent your country at international competition. I had hopes of making the Kenya team to World Half marathon, but I believe the coaches had other considerations in picking the team. Now I must focus on winning in Prague,” she said on Thursday from Eldoret.

But it will be no walk in the pack for the Kenyan. She must be at her best to challenge compatriot Joan Chelimo who is also eyeing the title while Ethiopia will have a strong candidate in Worknesh Degefa.

Chelimo holds a personal best time of 65:37 while Degefa has the fastest time of 66:14. There will also be Czech Olympian Eva Vrabcova in the lineup. The Czech is the fourth fastest in the field with a time of 71:06.

There will be six men whose personal bests are under the magic one hour mark and another eight under 1:01.

The leading time belongs to the event course record holder, Atsedu Tsegay, whose 58:47 from 2012 is also the Ethiopian National Record and the seventh fastest time in history.

His challengers will be the young Bernard Kimeli, last year’s Birell Prague Grand Prix 10K winner in 27:10 and Josphat Kimutai Tanui, who was the second in the last year’s Prague half marathon. But any one of another dozen men could step up to the top of the podium.

There are six sub-one hour competitors in the men’s race, including Ethiopian record-holder Atsedu Tsegay (58:47) and Kenyans Josphat Tanui (59:22), Justus Kangogo (59:31), Alex Kibet (59:32), Geoffrey Yegon (59:44) and Geoffrey Ronoh (59:45). Spain’s Javier Guerra (61:38 PB) is the leading European entrant.

Czech favorites will be Jiri Homolac, who is training in Eldoret. He will however start off with representing his country in Valencia for the World Half Marathon before returning home to try and win the title from a strong challenge of Kenyans and Ethiopian athletes.