Kiptoo wins marathon despite course confusion
By Matt Vis
Gilbert Kiptoo is so fast that not even detours and a little extra mileage could thwart his efforts to defend his Thunder Bay marathon title.
Kiptoo of Eldorat, Kenya, won the third annual Thunder Bay Marathon: Miles with the Giant on Sunday morning in a time of two hours and 38 minutes, which was good for a 2 1/2-minute margin of victory over second-place finisher Jonas Holmberg.
Kiptoo had opened a dominating lead, but miscommunication about the course led to him having to do extra distance which led to him losing his lead before he turned on his jets to capture the win.
The miscues began at Chapples Park, where Kiptoo ran an extra 2.5-kilometre loop. He lost more time later when he and his pacer went off the course, and had to figure out where to go. Kiptoo lost so much time that he had been passed by Holmberg and third place Mark Maronese, and the top two female competitors.
“I (caught) the second lady and then the leading lady, and when I asked the lady who was in second she said (the leaders) were far away so I kept pushing and pushing,” Kiptoo recalled.
“I thank God because I ended up having an extra gear to go up and get with the leading guys.”
The win marks the second consecutive time that Kiptoo, the three-time defending champion of the Firefighters’ 10-Mile Road Race held on the May long weekend, has claimed victory in the marathon. He says that since his first trip to Thunder Bay three years ago, the city has earned a special place in his heart.
“I know that the community means a lot for me, they are helping a lot of children back home,” he said when asked about his attachment to Thunder Bay. “I appreciate every time I come to Thunder Bay. I feel at home and I feel the warmth of the community. I feel at home.”
The situation with Kiptoo was not the only hiccup with a new course that was used this year. It also created confusion in the half marathon race when the first runner to cross the line had inadvertently gone off course and finished out of order.
After the races, organizer Barry Streib said that the situation had been resolved and the finishing order was properly determined. He also attempted to downplay the impact that the course issues had on the overall event.
“These things happen in marathons all the time around the world, for that matter. We got all the results sorted out from that, we got him back on course and he was able to get an official time so we’re happy for that.”
Kiptoo also minimized the incident, and took responsibility for not knowing the proper route.
“It’s normal to get lost in a race,” he said. “That’s human error . . . and I think it’s not their fault. I actually apologize on their behalf.”
Duluth’s Katie Koski captured the women’s marathon in a time of two hours and 55 minutes, good for fourth overall. The top local female was last year’s winner, Nikki Wilberforce, who finished in a time of three hours and 11 minutes.
For Koski, the win joins her with Kiptoo in sweeping both of the marquee running events in Thunder Bay for the year, as she was the top female in the 10-Mile Road Race in May. She has spent much time up north of the border over the years, and feels very comfortable in Thunder Bay.
“It feels awesome. Thunder Bay is one of my favourite places to race and I’m hoping to make this a yearly event,” she said. “I thought it was a really nice course, it was well organized. It was very different with the different sections so it never got boring.”
A pair of Winnipegers captured the half marathon event, as Dancan Kasia was the top male in a time of one hour and eight minutes, and Esther Jeptum Kipsere was the top female in one hour and 23 minutes. The top locals were Antonio Redfern Pucci, who was sixth overall, and Ariana Price of Armstrong who was the third female.
One of the appeals behind this year’s installment of the marathon is that the new course was certified as a qualifier for the prestigious Boston Marathon. On the day, 17 runners had times that qualify them for Boston in April 2014.