Sunday 25th October saw Edwin Kipyego in very determined mood to replicate his win in the Marseilles – Cassis IAAF Silver Label event in 2012.
Having experienced a very frustrating year in 2014, Edwin had already shown his resolve to change matters in 2015. He displayed a great return to form with his 59:30 performance a few weeks ago in the Copenhagen Half Marathon.
Whilst the weather in 2012 was absolutely appalling, this year was a complete contrast. Conditions looked very kindly on the runners, with almost no wind and a perfect temperature to ensure a fast and gladiatorial combat between some of the very best elite athletes from African states that included Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and South Africa plus some really tough competition from the European athletes.
Having won the event before, Edwin knew exactly the task that lay ahead. This enabled him to commit to the very unusual team tactics of running this year’s event as if the race finished at the half way point on the peak, reaching there with a 40 to 60 second lead. In any other race it would be considered crazy to commit to such a plan. Given the special terrain of this race involving a 10km climb up the Col de la Gineste (a climb that the Tour de France would be proud of) followed by a 10km descent that was run in 26 minutes in 2012, there was a good (if not brave) logic involved in the plan.
Edwin certainly didn’t disappoint. Showing unquestioning commitment to the plan he reached the peak with a commanding lead. It took the opposition completely by surprise; they clearly could not believe that anyone would want to run at that pace from the off and so by the 5km point Edwin had opened up the required gap.
Edwin’s race tactics played out exactly as planned, having reached the mountain top out of the sight of the other competitors. As the mountain road wound inexorably down in a seemingly unending drop it precluded anyone from having a chance to see much of him or indeed catch him. He opened up an ever increasing time gap as the others chasing him had obviously been tactically outwitted and had lost faith in the possibility of catching him. With over a kilometre to go to the finish Edwin even had time to begin offering high fives to the huge and enthusiastic crowd. This televised event is quoted as being the second biggest race in France after the Paris Half Marathon, which befits its status as an IAAF silver label event and makes Edwin’s win in 57:18 (which was almost a minute and a half ahead of the second place finisher and last year’s winner Berhane Tekle) all the more important.
In the ladies race, the second Team Run-Fast athlete Perendis Lakapana had a similar strategy, however not having run the course before she was slightly more hesitant at giving absolutely everything on the initial part of the climb. Perendis had sustained a nasty deep cut on her ankle whilst working on a farm in Kenya during the week leading up to the race, which almost resulted in her withdrawal. In spite of this Perendis displayed great tenacity to not only complete the race but also take 3rd position which, in an event filled with the best of African talent, shows what a great performance she had and what a tremendous future she has in the Run-Fast team as she gains more experience.