(02-Apr) -- After nearly a three year wait because of the pandemic, runners once again took to the streets of the Czech capitol for the Sportisimo Prague Half-Marathon this morning, the first event of the 2022 SuperHalfs Series of half-marathons. In cold and windy conditions, Kenyans Keneth Kiprop Renju and Nesphine Jepleting got the wins collecting USD 5000 each in prize money.
PHOTO: Keneth Kiprop Renju winning the 2022 Sportisimo Prague Half-Marathon in 59:28 (photo courtesy of RunCzech)
"I really liked the race, I enjoyed it a lot," Renju told race organizers after running with a long-sleeve shirt under his Nike singlet to keep warm. He continued: "The weather caught me by surprise, I didn't expect it to be so cold. The worst was the headwind, which made it really hard in some moments."
Renju had to shake off strong challenges from three Kenyan compatriots --Philemon Kiplimo Kimaiyo, Bernard Kimeli and Mathew Kipkorir Kimeli-- who were all with him at the 10-K split of 27:52. The same four were together through 15-K. Renju was only able to break away after crossing the Manes Bridge over the Vltava River which takes the runners to the finish in Old Town. Kimaiyo got second in 59:33, Mathew Kipkorir Kimeli third in 59:46, and Bernard Kimeli fourth in 59:59.
"Despite the conditions here, it was fast," Renju said. "A world record may fall here."
In the women's race, Jepleting and compatriot Irine Cheptai --who was second at the United Airlines NYC Half just 13 days ago-- broke away from the field early and ran most of the race together. The pair hit the 10-K mark in a swift 30:50, and were still together at 15-K in 46:59. But by 20-K Jepleting had an 11-second lead and won in 1:06:57 to Cheptai's 1:07:16.
"I could run faster, but it was too cold and windy," Jepleting told race organizers at the finish. "During the race, I doubted I could win. But the mental strength, my head, helped me. In the group we ran until the twelfth kilometer, then we accelerated as we wanted."
The course records of 58:47 by Atsedu Tsegay of Ethiopia (2012) and 1:04:52 by Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya (2017) were never threatened.
In seventh place the former Ukrainian runner Sofiia Yaremchuk, who now represents Italy, ran a personal best of 1:09:09 and said she carried Ukraine in her heart as she ran today.
"I ran for Ukraine and for all the people and men who are fighting in Ukraine," she said. "I want to tell everyone that Ukraine does not want war, the whole world does not want war, we all want peace. I'm happy because I have my new record and I finished with the Ukrainian flag."