This is for my family, says runaway winner Gideon
Belfast Half Marathon
Kenya's Gideon Kipsang Kimosop and Beechmount's Gerri Short took the honours with clear victories in yesterday's fifth DeepRiverRock Belfast Half Marathon where a massive 4,000 plus athletes took full advantage of the calm, sunny conditions.
Kipsang (30) comes from Eldoret in the Rift Valley which has been the base for numerous world class African athletes over the years. Unlike most of his compatriots, Gideon has been able to travel for competition in Europe and it has paid huge dividends by way of supporting his large extended family at home.
Yesterday marked a hat trick of Belfast victories for Gideon with previous wins in 2015 and last year where he was challenged in the early stages by local runner Stephen Scullion. There was no such threat this time as Kipsang pressed the accelerator from the start on Ormeau Embankment. The only question thereafter was the size of his winning gap.
At three miles, he enjoyed a 200 metres lead from Vincent McKenna of Acorns and Letterkenny's Karl Duggan who fought a close dual for the entire race. The Willowfield pair, Adrian Bell and Brian Kinsella, were further back in a large chasing pack.
Kipsang appeared to be racing well within himself for the remainder of the race as his lead extended to the finish. At the tape, he had a winning margin of 3 mins 24 secs in what was, for him, a relatively modest time of 67 mins 45 secs which was over three minutes slower than a year ago.
Behind him, McKenna battled to the line to snatch second in 71 mins 9 secs, just ahead of Donegal cross country champion Duggan (71.11). The top six were completed by Bell (74.11) who just beat team mate Kinsella (74.11) plus Craig Simpson of Foyle (74.47 ).
Kipsang, who will be based in the Province until the end of the year, will find the £500 winning prize invaluable coming from a country where the average wage is £25 per week. These modest winnings go a long way towards supporting his wife and two daughters and also a huge extended family totalling 10 children under 10 years of age. They are mostly orphans resulting from a tragic history where his brother and sister in law died from cancer at an early age.
Gideon commented: "This money goes a long way towards helping us all. I was happy with today's race but I really needed someone to push me a little harder. I stay in Derry and was not able to race in their recent Half Marathon because of visa problems. I will be racing this week in the Bangor 10k and also the NI Road Relays."
A slightly disbelieving McKenna said of his runner up spot: "I am delighted with that which is a personal best by some three minutes. I couldn't have done it without my tussle with Karl. After this I am aiming to set another PB in the coming Dublin Marathon where I hope to run around 2 hrs 40 mins."
In the womens race, there were dramatic changes in the closing stages. Prior to that, Collette McCourt of Dub Runners led up to nine miles where she had a 20 seconds advantage over Gerri Short of Beechmount .
Thereafter McCourt struggled while Short forged ahead and opened an unassailable lead. Ballymena's Paula Worthington was also moving up the leaderboard with a determined run for home .
At the finish, Short was a clear winner in 85mins 32secs from Worthington (86mins 33secs). An exhausted McCourt just hung on to third in 87mins 11secs .
Next came Ciara McKay (87.17), Natalie Hall of Armagh (87.44) with the top six being completed by Denise Ward of Foyle Valley (87.47).
Short said: "I am very happy with that as I am just getting back to fitness. I took the lead after nine miles and felt strong. I know this course and like it. I will be aiming for under three hours in the Dublin Marathon."
An equally surprised Worthington said of her runner up spot: "This is my first ever half marathon as my normal distance is just 5k. I only got up to second at 11 miles. The Belfast course is great with plenty of water stations. I have just turned 40 and will be challenging myself again in the Dublin Marathon."
Jim Corbett, Paul Hannon and Karol Doherty shared the winning prize for the Wheelchair race (winning time, 1.07.30).