Kipsang takes control to seal his second half marathon title
Gideon Kipsang took his second half marathon victory in perfect conditions in Belfast yesterday where his winning time of 64 mins 38 secs was only 14 secs slower than his record-breaking performance in the same race two years ago.
Kipsang was a surprise last minute entry as a member of Ciaran Collins' Project Africa team, designed to facilitate international standard athletes from Kenya.
The 29-year-old took the start line ahead of over 3,000 competitors, along with local favourite Stephen Scullion and last year's winner Freddy Sittuk.
Scullion, who was buoyed by his recent good performances, wasted little time in forcing himself to the front from the start.
He was clearly encouraged by his excellent 14th place in last week's Great North Run, plus an earlier PB of 50 mins 36 secs over 10 miles in Dublin.
However, Kipsang was never going to allow Scullion to establish a commanding lead.
The African quickly closed the gap after two miles and they then raced together.
However, by the seven-mile mark Kipsang had opened a 30 secs gap.
The only issue from then to the finish was the size of his winning margin.
This had stretched to some 90 secs at the tape with Scullion still recording a highly respectable time of 66 mins 12 secs which was only 20 secs slower than his Great North Run performance.
For his part, 36-year-old Sittuk was never in the hunt to record a hat-trick of victories in this event.
Previously he had relied on a devastating sprint finish for victory off a relatively slow pace.
The fast early mile times yesterday left Sittuk trailing and he finished some four minutes adrift of Scullion in 70 mins 6 secs.
The top six were completed by North Belfast's John Black, who won the Larne 10k the previous week, City of Derry's Kyle Doherty and Pierce McCullough of Sperrin.
Kipsang expressed delight at his win coming after a year in which he had been sidelined with injury.
His previous race was last October when he finished seventh in the Cardiff Half Marathon in a fast 63.14.
The African is no stranger to Northern Ireland, having claimed the runners-up spot in the 2015 Belfast Marathon, in a time of 2.20.29, behind Joel Kositany.
He was also fourth in Antrim International Cross Country in 2015.
Kipsang said he enjoyed coming to the province and intended to race in the Bangor 10k at the end of the month.
In the ladies' race, Irish Olympian Catriona Jennings confirmed her recent good form with an inspired performance to win with ease in an overall 16th place in a time of 75 mins 38 secs.
This is only nine secs slower than her PB set in Newry back in 2012.
The London Olympics marathon competitor has a best time for that distance of two hours 36 mins 17 secs. Last month she ran a PB for 10 miles of 59 mins 15 secs in Dublin.
Jennings said she was very pleased with her performance and hoped it would be a stepping stone to further good times.
Judith Lonnen was almost 8 mins adrift followed by Springwell's Ciara Toner, Sarah Jane Guiney and Niamh Kellett of East Down.