The 30-year-old should have claimed possession of the course record. Instead, his unaccompanied gamble through the closing stretch left him just six seconds short when he swept to the finish in Musselburgh in a time of two hours, 15 minutes and 33 seconds.
The quickest man in the field on paper had hoped it would be more emphatic when he bolted out into an early advantage that stretched to as much as 150 metres by the time the descent from the city centre to Portobello had concluded. “I was looking for a fast time at the start,” he revealed. “But then the wind picked up.”
His posse of compatriots edged their way onto his heels, Japhet Koech and Elicky Mase turning the solo charge into a three-pronged fight when they congregated at the ten-miles mark in 49:54. Linus Maiyo made it a quartet, yet, as the race turned westward once more, he went backwards as the trio advanced.
“I was trying to push it out when I saw that the pace was starting to slow down,” Koech admitted. “We were talking to each other about trying to go quicker.” Toniok let his feet do the talking with an acceleration that his comrade could not match. “I didn’t feel I could go with David when he made that break,” Koech added. “I had to just tell myself to focus on my own race.”
He eventually secured second place, exactly one minute in front of Mase, but Toniok was long out of sight. “After 21 miles, I was feeling fresh,” he said. “And that’s when I decided to accelerate and go for it. I wasn’t thinking about the course record. I just wanted to make sure I won.”
Ben Gamble of Tipton Harriers, in fifth, was the first domestic finisher with Kerry Liam Nelson of Cambuslang Harriers one place back in 2:28:04. “The first 18 miles were tough, but I started to pick people off,” said the 43-year-old Scot. “The last four miles, I was really hurting. My stomach was cramping.”
Ukraine’s Kateryna Stetsenko was a surprise victor in the women’s race in 2:36:07 after her late bid to overtake defending champion Risper Kimaiyo came up trumps. The Kenyan led for 21 miles but was denied a repeat of her 2013 success with Stetsenko holding more in reserve over the concluding stages.
“I was finding the hills difficult but when I saw Risper coming back at the turn, I thought I could catch her,” Stetsenko said. “The last part, when I went past, was hard. I had to run the final ten kilometres mostly by myself. So while I’m happy to have won, I’m not really that pleased with the time.”
Ross Houston, who will compete for Scotland in July’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, came first in the adjoining Edinburgh half marathon in 1:07:16 after pulling away from Antonio Silva of Queens Park Harriers over the closing two miles. “A lead pack formed early and we pretty much stayed together most of the way,” the 34-year-old said. “At the turn at 11 miles, and with the wind, I managed a stronger finish.”
Northern Irishwoman Gladys Ganiel was the winner of the women’s event in 1 hour, 17 minutes and 26 seconds, with Shona McIntosh nudging Glasgow 2014-bound Hayley Haining into third. “It had a fast field and was an ideal opportunity to race on home soil before Glasgow,” the Scotland international said.
On Saturday, another Commonwealth marathon hopeful, Derek Hawkins, was undaunted by coming second to Australian Harry Summers, who set a course record of 31:09 in the Edinburgh 10k. “I’m happy with my race,” said the Kilbarchan athlete, who will polish off his Glasgow preparations with a training stint in Portugal. “Running with Harry was a great experience. I had the lead uphill but when it came to the downhill he took off. I’ve never seen anyone go like that.” Japanese-born Mizumi Inagaki claimed the female title in 41:38.
While among the 30000 entrants during the weekend’s Festival, the largest distance was covered by Steve Bonthrone, from Perth, who ran the 5k, 10k, half-marathon and then the full 26 miles to raise funds for cancer research. “You have to do this once in your life,” he said. “I’m happy I ran it.”