In recent times Kenyan distance runners have become regular visitors to Ireland where they run for local clubs and hoover up prizes on the road racing scene before returning to the Rift Valley.
Lezan Kimutai (Athenry AC) is one of the travelling band of Kenyans, and leading entrants, for the Irish Examiner Cork City marathon this Bank Holiday Monday. In his younger days he won the 25th edition of the Dublin marathon in 2004 in a new course record of 2:13:07.
Kimutai has been a regular on the Irish road racing circuit most summers since 2004. The prizes on offer typically provide an income of five to ten times more in a year for Kenyans than in other professions in their own country.
They spend the money on buying land, setting up a farm or developing other business interests along with providing for their families.
When Kimutai takes his first steps alongside the other marathon and team relay runners at 9am sharp on St Patrick’s Street, his compatriot Peter Somba will set about beginning his warm-up for the half marathon that starts at 10.45am on Victoria Road.
The financial incentive has ensured an extra influx of Kenyans the last few summers. Freddy Kerron Sittuk (Raheny Shamrock) will toe the line at the Derry City marathon tomorrow – as will last year’s women’s Cork winner, Pauline Curley.
Curley smashed her course record from the previous year with 2:43:37 but has opted to run in Derry instead of seeking a hat-trick of titles Leeside.
Poland’s Bartosz Mazerski denied Gary O’Hanlon’s (Clonliffe Harriers) brave attempt for a third marathon victory in 15 days in a sprint finish down St Patrick’s Street. It still remains to be seen whether Mazerski will return for a tilt at three victories on the trot – there is no official elite entry system.
In an exciting duel that went the full distance, Mazerski had more in the tank to prevail in 2:28:38 to O’Hanlon’s 2:28:45 as they sprinted over the bridge and into the finish on St Patrick’s Street after an enthralling 26 miles.
Domestic interest lies very much with the old guard. O’Hanlon’s marathon schedule has hit a halt since his victory at the Tralee International marathon on March 15 in 2:31:38 but Cillian O’Leary (Raheny Shamrock) and Barry Minnock (Rathfarnham) should mount a serious challenge.
O’Leary, 35, is a native of the Model Farm Road which forms part of the route and he will be looking to improve on his 4th place finish from 2012 where he clocked 2:29:52. He is also coached by former Cork winner Jerry Kiernan.
Barry Minnock (Rathfarnham), who recently turned 40, has a personal best of 2:17:41 and will use this as a stepping stone for a tilt at the Olympic marathon standard of 2:17:00.
The women’s race looks wide open with the absence of Curley and could leave the door open for the evergreen Angela McCann (Clonmel), who won the race in 2012, and Mary Sweeney (St Finnbarr’s) to take the top honours.
Marathon Monday promises a festival of racing which also includes the half marathon, an Inter-services championships, a team relay run and a youth challenge alongside the 26.2 mile distance. There is expected to be over 7,000 people taking part between all the events.
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