Those who swing drivers on the various links of East Lothian know only too well that the coastal gusts can, by stealth, turn into instruments of torture. The afflicted can now stand in solidarity with the crop of buffeted and bruised African athletes in yesterday’s Edinburgh Marathon who were powerless to respond as Mother Nature propelled them into the rough.
Only the strongest survived, but then only just. And while Peter Wanjiru and Joan Kigen ensured that the glass winners trophies will be sported back to Kenya, neither emerged invigorated by their experience. The men’s victor was lent a helping hand by conditions that compelled his challengers to decelerate to a crawl, but he too was reduced to a canter as he crossed the finishing line in Musselburgh.
“The wind was just coming straight into my face,” said Wanjiru, who was well outside the course record in two hours, 19 minutes and 34 seconds. “I was looking for a good time but it was just impossible.” Another mile, and the grimace on his face suggested he might have succumbed to incurable fatigue.
The 32-year-old was fortunate that he had accumulated a vast cushion after pulling away with eight miles remaining. For a long spell, it had been a tri-partite scrap with his compatriots, David Toniok and Japhet Koech, respectively first and second here in 2014. Wanjiru made his decisive move and departed alone. “I left David and I wanted to make sure he was not near me. But after I got away, it was very tiring.”
Koech crumbled completely, barely finishing inside 2:45. “It was hard to get to the end,” Toniok added. “It was my day today,” Wanjiru affirmed. “We were talking during the race and saying we should help each other to get through it with the conditions and land a good time. But it was just too tough. I had to move in front and then soon, the others were kaput.”
Neil Renault profited most from others’ demise, the Scotland international picking off his rivals one by one before finding himself, to his immense surprise, in second place, ultimately five minutes adrift. “When I realised Toniok wasn’t moving that fast, I thought why not have a crack at going past him?” he recounted. “I half expected him to come back but he didn’t.”
The prize fund which included a bonus for the first Briton, he confirmed, had spurred him to a determined push. “I’m moving house next week and I don’t have any money,” the Edinburgh AC specialist said.
“That’s been on my mind. But that’s probably a big help. Sometimes, when you need a bit of cash, it pushes you on. If it hadn’t been for that, I might not have had that extra adrenaline to push for second. So I might be able to go out and buy a sofa now. A few years ago when I did the Essen Marathon and won it, we went and got a kitchen. It’s handy having that motivation.”
Kigen was a convincing winner in the women’s race in two hours, 39 minutes and 43 seconds after her own fight with the elements. The 37-year-old, as expected, was well clear of the female field. “From 17 miles onwards, it was really tough,” she said. “I can’t say I enjoyed it. The course was good but it was brutal.”
Behind, English pair Charlotte Firth and Samantha Amend were well adrift in second and third, illustrating a lack of elite depth which may need to be addressed in future years if the event is still to merit the Bronze Label status it has been accorded by the IAAF.
Firth, who runs for Windsor, Slough & Eton, could at least be satisfied with her day’s work and a time of 2:48:51. “It’s not far off my personal best, which is pretty good in these conditions. I got a stitch with nine miles left and it wouldn’t go away. And then the wind hit me. By the time the stitch went, I was just trying to get my head down and stay with the people around me.”
With organisers claiming more than 30,000 competitors of all shapes and sizes had taken part over the two days of the Marathon Festival, Thomas Porter of the USA won the adjoining Edinburgh half-marathon in 1:08.58 by prevailing in a three-way scrap for supremacy with Jarrow’s Andy Burn and Hunters Bog Trotters’ Patryk Gierjatowicz while Kilbarchan’s Gemma Rankin coasted to the women’s title in 1:17.21.
Elsewhere, Mark Dry saw off fellow Scot Andy Frost to win the hammer at the Bedford International with Kirsty Law victorious in the discus. Cameron Boyek won the 1500m at the BMC Manchester Grand Prix in 3:40.62, inside the qualifying time for the European Under-23 Championships.