Kiplagat defends women’s marathon gold at worlds
MOSCOW (AP) — In a city more known for brutal winters than scorching summers, Edna Kiplagat took advantage of Moscow’s heat.
The Kenyan won her second straight women’s marathon title at the world championships on Saturday after changing her training schedule to focus on running in warm conditions.
“Most of my races are done in the morning and I thought this would be a big problem,” said Kiplagat, the first female marathoner to repeat as world champion. “In Kenya I was training in the afternoon so that I could adjust.”
Kiplagat won the race along the Moscow River in 2 hours, 25 minutes, 44 seconds, making a late push past Italian rival Valeria Straneo, who settled for silver despite leading for much of the race.
Kayoko Fukushi of Japan took bronze, two full minutes behind Kiplagat.
The race began at 2 p.m., when the sun was out in full and the city had spent hours building up humidity. Temperatures hit as high as 30 degrees C (86 degrees F).
The heat made the water tables all the more welcome to the runners and they grabbed avidly for the bottles. They also ran through machine-produced mist clouds to stay cool.
“I am happy I was able to take enough in,” Kiplagat said.
Straneo laughingly said she couldn’t even estimate how many bottles she drank, just that “it was enough, because now I have to go to the bathroom.”
Straneo was in the lead from the early minutes of the race, while Kiplagat stayed well back in the field during the early stretches. But she joined the front pack at about the 14th kilometer and stayed there as the competition dwindled, frequently edging closer to Straneo and at times pulling nearly abreast.
Fukushi dropped back from the leading pack at the 29th kilometer, leaving only Kiplagat and Meselech Melkamu of Ethiopia with Straneo.
Near the course’s final wide turn outside the Kremlin walls, Melkamu also fell back and eventually started walking, allowing Fukushi to move up to an unchallenged, but far-off third.
Straneo wasn’t aware of how far back almost all of her competition had fallen and when she finally took a look behind her, it was both a good surprise and a bad one.
“I just turned behind at 35 kilometers and just saw one girl,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
But that woman was, of course, the world champion, and Straneo sensed her lead wouldn’t last.
“She’s too strong,” she said of Kiplagat.
Along with the heat, the runners weren’t too impressed with the race layout -- three 10-kilometer loops and one shorter loop along the Moscow River with only short stretches through a wooded area near Luzhniki Stadium, where the race started and ended.
“I was a bit bored,” Fukushi said, “but it was probably good for the spectators because they could watch us a lot.”