Kahugu wins as Kenyans dominate


KENYANS, as expected, dominated the Golden Pages Marathon with Joseph Kahugu moving to the front for the first time at the 24 mile mark to lead a clean sweep of his compatriots, crossing the line in two hours 17.42 minutes, in a race which attracted over 3,000 entrants, with over half of them from abroad.

There was, however, some measure of consolation for Irish athletes when Catherine Shum originally from Santry but now living in England - won a highly competitive women's event while John Fulham proved best in the wheelchair category.

Kahugu, like the winner of the women's race, won a car for his efforts and is considering transporting it back to his base in Nairobi. He didn't need the assistance of any motorised vehicle as he powered away over the final two miles for victory in what was only his fourth time at the distance.

This was a race full of drama with the final miles providing the fitting finale. Given the prevailing weather conditions with a near gale force wind buffeting the athletes at various points along the course the early miles were run at a decidedly leisurely pace.

Indeed such was the sedateness of those early miles that a group of 15 athletes were running along in company with all those who finally figured in the leading places, enjoying the trip through the capital.

But Kenyan athletes are not known for their patience in races of any distance and are only too willing to test the resolve of those who harbour serious ambitions at regular intervals. John Mutai Kipyator, having his first serious attempt over the distance, decided to test his fellow competitors as the field approached the nine mile mark passing through St Stephen's Green.

His move had the desired effect with only Ethiopia's Kassa Tadesse attempting to follow Kipyator but his effort proved to be in vain as the Kenyan stretched away. The half way point was passed in 69.41 minutes with Kipyator cutting a solitary figure as the rest of the field strung out behind him.

The lead was SO seconds at 16 miles and extended to over a minute at the 20 mile mark as the sanctuary of the tape loomed nearer. But the old adage that the marathon only begins after the 20 mile mark rang true as the distance between leader and pursuers began to close thereafter.

The tong drag along the Liffey from Chapelizod proved to be decisive. Joshua Kipkemboi and Kahugu were leading the chase with Mbarack Hussein followed by Tadesse. In the absence of Jerry Healy who was a late withdrawal, the Irish challenge was taken up by Tommy Maher but his task was a forlorn one.

At Islandbridge the smart money was still on Kipyator as he still had a gap of some 28 seconds but a little over half a mile later Kahugu swept into the lead he held all the way to the finish.

Hussein finished second with Kipkemboi taking third ahead of the luckless Kipyator. Maher held on to his position as leading Irish finisher with Brendan Hilliard completing the top six.

A quiet spoken Kahugu afterwards confirmed that be never panicked despite the margin enjoyed throughout the race by Kipyator as his compatriot has a habit of building up big leads in races only to fall away when the pressure mounts.

The women's race proved yet again to be a triumph for Shum as she displayed commendable composure to remain with the leading group until the 17 mile mark before pulling away. "Two years ago when it was also quite windy I pushed from early on and paid the penalty and this year I was determined not to move too early. I was actually holding myself back for most of the early part of the race," the 36 year old said.

Indeed the conditions dictated that this race would also be covered sedately early on with the halfway point covered in one hour 20 minutes. Shum, Rosie Lambe, Danielle Sanderson. Wendy Llewellyn, Heather Heasman and the defending champion Trudi Thomson were all together at this point.

Llewellyn and Sanderson tried to match the increase in pace injected by Shum but found themselves chasing in vain as the Dubliner crossed the line with over two minutes to spare in two hours 38.56 seconds. Indeed it was quite a day for Shum as her 11 year old son Jonathon finished third in the children's minithon held after the main race had got underway.

Sanderson, from Bushey near Watford, overhauled another London based athlete, Llewellyn, to take second place. Tracy Swindell took fourth with Thomson fifth ahead of Zina Marchant. Lambe took eighth, one place ahead of Christine Kennedy.