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Kiprotich Mutai wins Hong Kong Marathon

Mike Kiprotich Mutai - Hong Kong Marathon

Top finishers in the the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon early Sunday morning were unanimous in declaring the conditions the worst they had run in. But despite the monsoon rain, the men in particular put on a storming finale, which came down to a duel in the last two kilometres, with the lead changing up to the final 400 metres when Mike Kiprotich Mutai finally pulled clear of his Kenyan colleague, Lawrence Cherono, to win by two seconds in 2.12.12.

Given the conditions, that was an excellent time, less than a minute shy of the course record of 2.11.27, set two years ago by this year’s third placer, Feyera Gemeda of Ethiopia, who clocked 2.12.20 this time.

Hong Kong Marathon Elite

The Hong Kong organisers welcome independent elites making their own way to the race, and several have pulled off surprise wins in the past, notably Gemeda. But this year’s selection of uninvited guests had a twist to the tale. Former Kenyan marathoner, Thomas Kiprotich has been living and coaching in Hong Kong for the last eight years. A relatively recent decision to go into athlete management of young friends from his celebrated hometown of Eldoret resulted in the trio finishing first, fourth and seventh, Dickson Tuwei and Julius Maisei being the others.

With unusual lack of circumspection for a Kenyan, Cherono – who also comes from Eldoret – had declared himself a likely winner, whatever the conditions, prior to the race. He was warned of the impending rain, but clearly hadn’t reckoned on Mutai.

“We know each other well,” said Kiprotich immediately after the race, “and I was confident I could beat him in the finish. I knew I would win from 40k”. That was not evident to the spectators who still turned out in force, despite the weather. They witnessed the two men pass and re-pass each other in the last five minutes of the race, to make it a nail-biting finish.

“I still thought I was going to win,” said Cherono, “but he was too strong for me in the end”. Feyera dropped off the pace at the point where Mutai and Cherono began their duel, but he hung in to finish just eight seconds adrift of the winner.

The women’s race in contrast was far more sedate, although, like the men, the half dozen leaders stayed together throughout the majority of the race. “Nobody really wanted to take the lead, because of the rain,” said eventual winner, Letebrhan Haylay Gebreslasea, who hails from Tigre in northern Ethiopia. “But I decided to try from 36k, and the group split up”.

Only her colleague, Ayelu Lemma Geda responded, and although, as in the men’s race, the gap at the end was just two seconds, Geda never got on terms with Gebreslasea, and the winner wasn’t threatened down the finishing straight, as had happened in the men’s race. Gebreslasea won in 2.36. 51, with Geda on 2.36.53, and another Ethiopian, Ehite Bizuayehu Gebireyes third, in 2.37.28.

Probably the best run of the day in the women’s race came from Yu Kit Ching of Hong Kong. She has already been selected for the Rio Olympics, and with a sixth place, hard on the heels of five quality Ethiopians (one running for Bahrein), she clocked 2.38.38, only 14 seconds slower than her best, set in far more clement conditions in Prague nine months ago.



1 Mike Kiprotich MUTAI    KEN        2.12.12    65,000
2 Lawrence CHERONO    KEN        2.12.14    30,000
3 Feyera GEMEDA        ETH        2.12.20    15,000
4 Dickson TUWEI        KEN        2.12.29    10,000
5 Fikre ROBI            ETH        2.12.47      6,000
6 Megersa BACHA        ETH        2.13.02      3,000
7 Julius MAISEI        KEN        2.13.20      2,000
8 Melaku BIZUNEH        ETH        2.17.27      1,600
9 Mulatu REGASA        ETH        2.17.39      1,200
10 Samuel MWANIKI    KEN        2.19.27      1,000

1 Letebrhan GEBRESLASEA/ETH        2.36.51    65,000
2 Ayelu L GEDA        ETH        2.36.53    30,000
3 Ehite B GEBIREYES    ETH        2.37.28    15,000
4 Koren JELALA        ETH        2.38.01    10,000
5 Lishan D GEMCHU    BRN        2.38.19      6,000
6 YIU Kit Ching        HKG        2.38.38      3,000
7 Aster TILAHUN        BRN        2.39.09      2,000
8 Askale T HURISA        ETH        2.40.04      1,600
9 Naomi MAYO        KEN        2.40.44      1,200
10 Meseret G AGAMA    ETH        2.41.26      1,000