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Paris Marathon 2003 – Mike Rotich wins

Paris, France – 2003.. What a race.. down to the line .. The Paris Marathon provided a simply superb race with Mike Rotich of Kenya [with a previous best – 2:08.’59] thrusting himself into the league of the World’s Best with a winning time of 2:06.32.

Mike Rotich Paris 2003

Mike Rotich Paris 2003

It did not stop there though, with the next 3 athletes re-arranging the world all-time best list by going sub 2Hr 07, and the next 4 athletes clocking sub 2hr 09. Paris is not known as a fast course and it is not recognised as THE Big City marathon, however it has always provided the numbers. And this year they provided the quality. It was simply breathtaking to watch a race where so many countless surges were thrown in at intermittent periods.

What follows is the race report as it took place : we pick up the race from 20K ..

Benoit Zwierzchiewski must be the most tattooed marathoner around, more fitting to a Goth Night Club than being amongst the elite runners of the Paris Marathon. And Benoit Z is the defending champion so he has the pedigree, in the lead pack consisting of 8 Kenyans are the two French hopes Benoit Z and Driss El Himer, who is the National Record Holder with 2:07.01 from Amsterdam in 2001.

The pace provided is constant and fast , with the front pack passing through halfway [ 21.1K ] in 62:46, which is below the World Record of 2Hr 05min 38 seconds held by Khalid Khannouchi of America.

In the pack the Kenyan contingent is made up of Mike Rotich [PB 2:08.59], Wilson Onsare who has a PB of 61:35 for 21K, Philip Tarus [PB 2:08.32], David Kirui [PB 2:09.40].

With the pacesetters providing a well-varnished tempo, El Himer is content to place himself in a position reserved for the label ‘stalker’, whereas Benoit Z likes to keep himself handy, just off the pace provided.

With the 1st 5K passed in 15:02, 10k in 29:57 and 15K 45:08 , the pace accellerated to the 21K to be on target for a fast time. However, this tempo was to drop again and on one occasion El Himer went to the front unexpectantly. They were no longer on WR pace and as the lead male pack began to approach the lead elite women, Rotich hit the front with a big surge.

This was 1:27.02 into the race that they passed the women, and the speed with which the men were moving gave the impression the women were standing still, such was the ferocity of the surge. Shortly thereafter, they passed through 30K in 1:29.47 and the pack had now been trimmed down to 6 athletes, 2 French and 4 Kenyans.

As they passed under a banner, there was evidence of wind as the banners fluttered in the breeze. Rotich again applied pressure with a surge and Benoit Z went off the back, but it looks more that he is maintaining one pace, rather than attempting to cover the surge immediately. He soon finds himself back in the front – a lesson to any would be marathon racer … surges can deal severe body blows late in a race, especially if it is of a fast/slow fast/slow nature. Do note, if a surge is delivered very late into the race, you have no other choice but to follow.

Benoit Z begins upping the tempo, then suddenly Rotich surges again, earlier he had been showing the strains of the previous surge. Cagey tactics are evident as BZ slides to the back of the pack again, content to maintain one pace again. When the surge settles BZ is back in front making sure that the pace remains true, thus ensuring that those who covered the surge immediately are unable to settle and recover. [ BZ has a slight grimace etched on his face as he applies the pressure, some would be foolhardy enough to think it is a smile ]

Rotich is doing the donkey work [ maintaining the pace ] and again he throws in a surge, pain etched across his face. He is working hard to apply the pressure on the rest. Then Driss El Himer counter surges, this is for real, he opens up a 10m gap effortlessly, to pass through 35K in 1:44.45. BZ is yet again at the back, taking in fluids on this occasion. The 3 Kenyans are running shoulder to shoulder in an attempt to bridge the gap. The pack is reduced to 5 after that surge.

The 4 regroup, with BZ biding his time before joining the front 4. El Himer again applies pressure. This will be wasted if he is unable to maintain in the final 2Km.

By 36K, they are together [ 5 athletes ]. BZ is back in front. However, El Himer does not look the worse for wear after his surge … that must have been a test ?? .. A similar surge with 2K to go, could deliver victory.

BZ is running an amazing tactical race, and one can only wonder why he made such tactical blunders at the European Marathon Championships in Munich 2002. His consistent pace keeps the race honest.

For the first time BZ tests the other athletes, just after 37K. But, it is more a drive towards the finish, more the continual applying of pressure to achieve an end goal, somewhat different to the surges previously seen. El Himer looks very healthy and relaxed, and with a PB of 2Hr07, he is in familiar territory at this pace. BZ’s pressure has reduced the lead group to 4.

BZ and Sammy Kipketer, of the track circuit, must have the same dentist, as they both seem to show their teeth when running at their best.

Yet again, Rotich provides the tester and yet again BZ is forced to fight to keep in touch. He slips 3 – 4m off the back, this could be fatal for the French athlete as Rotich maintains the pace.

The other Frenchman, El Himer, drops 1 – 2m off the front and Rotich is out on his own. BZ digs deep to haul in the 2nd Kenyan, to move into 3rd. Rotich has definitely made his run for the finish, there is no going back now. He has played his hand, and it looks pretty decisive.

40K comes up in 1:59.56, a course record is on. El Himer is fighting to cover, however the person who looks to be moving the quickest is BZ. El Himer no longer looks the smooth moving athlete of 5K’s ago, and it is at the most important time of the race that he seems to have lost his edge.

Rotich, on the otherhand, is looking smooth and he may be able to maintain this for a certain victory.

In an instance BZ loses his rhythym, his race is run, however a PB is on. 41K and these athletes are all on target for sub 2:07.

El Himer is battling to refind his tempo, but is unbelievably passed by BZ. Driss fights to cover. It is now a fight for France’s National Record and less not forget, 2nd place. This amazing fight is drawing them ever nearer to Rotich, who looks to have the race sewn up.

BZ powers forward again and the invisible band is finally broken as Benoit jetisons away from his compatriot, with the momentum carrying him to within striking distance of Rotich. The Kenyan is safe, and fast times are the order of the day.

Benoit is sprinting and every meter taken draws him ever closer to 1st place, however Rotich is a deserved winner in a new Course Record of 2:06.32 , with the 1st 4 all under 2:07 and the next four sub 2Hr 09. What a race and what a result.

Incredibly, this is a double for Rotich as he won the Half marathon run on the 09th March 2003, in 61:30.

In the Women’s section Rosario Console is denied victory over the final 300m, as Beatrice Omwanza of Kenya powers past her with the finish line in the Italian’s sight.

Omwanza goes away to record a victory of 2:27.41, with the Italian a further 5 seconds in arrears, however with the satisafaction of a PB in 2nd place.

Results 1st 10 Men and Women

1. Mike Rotich (Ken) 2 hours 6 minutes 32 seconds
2. Benoit Zwierzchlewski (Fra) 2:06:36
3. Wilson Onsare (Ken) 2:06:47
4. Driss El Himer (Fra) 2:06:48
5. David Ruto (Ken) 2:08:21
6. Haron Toroitich (Ken) 2:08:34
7. David Kirui (Ken) 2:08:53
8. Zebedayo Bayo (Tan) 2:08:54
9. David Kosgei (Ken) 2:11:33
10. Wilson Musto (Ken) 2:12:04

1. Beatrice Omwanza (Ken) 2:27:44
2. Rosaria Console (Ita) 2:27:48
3. Banuela Mrashani (Tan) 2:29:13
4. Hafida Gadi Richard (Fra) 2:30:38
5. Rakiya Quetier Maraoui (Fra) 2:31:35
6. Mary Ptikany (Ken) 2:32:04
7. Giovanna Volpato (Ita) 2:33:23
8. Zaia Dahmani (Fra) 2:34:31
9. Fatima Yvelain (Fra) 2:35:03
10. Fatima Hajjami (Fra) 2:37:20

source Time-to-Run

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