Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2019: Kenyans rule in the night heat

Joshua Kipkorir coming home to retain his title in a relatively poor time of 2hr 19min 13sec, nearly seven minutes slower than last year - owing to the higher temperature and humidity at night compared to the wee hours.
Joshua Kipkorir coming home to retain his title in a relatively poor time of 2hr 19min 13sec, nearly seven minutes slower than last year - owing to the higher temperature and humidity at night compared to the wee hours.ST PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Soh Rui Yong finishing in 2hr 45min 52sec to complete his hat-trick of titles for local elite men.
Soh Rui Yong finishing in 2hr 45min 52sec to complete his hat-trick of titles for local elite men.ST PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR
A runner dressed in non-traditional gear getting a second wind towards the finish line as she breezes past a character from Jurassic Park.
A runner dressed in non-traditional gear getting a second wind towards the finish line as she breezes past a character from Jurassic Park.ST PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Kipkorir keeps men's title but is 7min slower than last year, Cherono sets women's record

The city skyline dazzled in the background as the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon (SCSM) participants made their way across 42.195km of tarmac last night.

But, on the first evening edition of the annual running event, the performances of some of the elite athletes could hardly be deemed sparkling.

Kenya's Joshua Kipkorir breasted the tape at The Float @ Marina Bay in 2hr 19min 13sec to retain his Men's Open title - but it was seven minutes slower than his winning time last year.

Uganda's Munyo Solomon Mutai was second (2:19:46) and Bahrain's Benson Seurei (2:20:25) third.

Unlike the previous editions when the marathon began before dawn - last year's start time was 4.30am - this year's race flagged off at 6.05pm at the F1 Pit Building.

National-record holder Soh Rui Yong, who celebrated a hat-trick of wins as the top local finisher at the SCSM, felt that early-morning flag-offs are cooler and less humid for runners because of the absence of sunlight overnight.

This, he said, partly contributed to the tough conditions this year.

"We also expected it to rain - this being Singapore and being the monsoon season - and the clouds gathered but it never did," said Soh, 28.

"So the second half was atrocious for many of us."

Soh Rui Yong finishing in 2hr 45min 52sec to complete his hat-trick of titles for local elite men.
Soh Rui Yong finishing in 2hr 45min 52sec to complete his hat-trick of titles for local elite men. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

He noted that his time of 2:45:52 - which placed him ahead of Iskandar Mohamed (2:50:57) and Daniel Leow (2:51:50) - was his worst effort.

But there were no complaints from the Women's Open winner, Kenya's Priscah Cherono, who not also retained her title but also did it in style, winning in 2:28:53 to set a new SCSM record.

The previous mark was 2:31:55 set by her compatriot Salina Kosgei in 2006.

Another Kenyan, Stella Jepng' Etich Barsosio, was second in 2:30:19 while Alemnesh Guta of Australia (2:37:04) rounded off the podium places.

Both Kipkorir and Cherono won US$50,000 (S$68,390) and ensured Kenya's dominance at the SCSM for a fifth straight year.

This year's course took runners from the F1 Pit Building through the Central Business District to places such as West Coast Highway, Marina Barrage, Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands, before ending at The Float.

While Kipkorir did not comment on the weather conditions, he felt that the night race presented other challenges: "The first kilometre was very nice, but around 30 to 35km, there were a lot of challenging corners.

"There was also (not enough) lights in some parts of the route, and I had to look behind (at the escort bikes) to check (where I was)."

Elite wheelchair race winner Kota Hokonuie of Japan also noted that the second half of the route was dark, and suggested that flagging off half an hour earlier could be beneficial.

This year's event attracted over 15,000 participants with the overall SCSM competition - which includes a kids' dash, and distances of 21.1km, 10km, 5km as well as a wheelchair category - seeing over 50,000 entrants.

A runner dressed in non-traditional gear getting a second wind towards the finish line as she breezes past a character from Jurassic Park.
A runner dressed in non-traditional gear getting a second wind towards the finish line as she breezes past a character from Jurassic Park. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

The shift is part of the organisers' effort to fulfil various criteria in their bid to get the SCSM listed among the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a series of the most prestigious marathons in the world.

None of the six Majors - Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York and Tokyo - are held at night.

Sharon Tan emerged as the top local woman, finishing in 3:12:52, ahead of Jasmine Goh (3:17:56) and Chng Siew Lu (3:32:27). Soh and Tan both collected $10,000 for their efforts.

Tan, 30, is a two-time (2016 and 2019) winner of the Sundown Marathon, which flags off just before midnight.

When asked to compare the two local marathons, she said the key difference was the crowd support: "The Sundown Marathon is a peaceful, serene run.

"It was awesome (at the SCSM). When they (the supporters) saw my name on my bib, they even called out and cheered for me."

 

SCSM organiser Ironman Asia had hoped for 100,000 fans to flock along the route to liven up the race. Live performances, food and activities were offered across three dedicated spectator zones - The Promontory, Empress Lawn and The Float.

Goh, 40, who was also the female Masters (over 35) winner: "Before we climbed up the West Coast Highway, near the old Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, there were so many people standing there high-fiving us and cheering us on."

Added Soh: "When we climb Sheares Bridge in the morning (in previous SCSM editions) with the heat and at 38km into the race, it's almost like our Heartbreak Hill (a famous slope at the Boston Marathon), but this time at night it was really beautiful.

"It was really great to have the Singaporean public cheering us out there. I saw some familiar faces and I really enjoyed their support."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 01, 2019, with the headline 'Kenyans rule in the night heat'. Print Edition | Subscribe