Panuel Mkungo and Beatrice Cheptoo celebrated their biggest career wins when the Kenyans took the Türkiye Is Bankasi Istanbul Marathon on Sunday in windy and warm conditions. Hopes for records were ruined by the weather conditions and Mkungo clocked 2:10:35 while Cheptoo crossed the line on Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square after 2:27:09.
Taking into account the conditions and the tough final uphill stretch both winning times reflected really strong performances. The winners were rewarded with a prize purse of 30,000 Dollar.
Including races at shorter distances a total of 45,000 runners competed in the 45th edition of the Türkiye Is Bankasi Istanbul Marathon, which is an World Athletics Gold Label Road Race. Around 5,000 of them were running the classic distance with its unique route, starting in Asia and finishing in Europe.
In temperatures of around 20 Celsius and partly very breezy winds the men’s pacemakers guided the leading group through the 10k mark in 30:06. While the group was on 2:07 pace at this stage of the race one of the main favorites had already dropped out: Defending champion Robert Kipkemboi of Kenya, who dropped out before the 10k point.
The 2:07 pace continued for a while but the wind then had a significant impact in the following section. A group of eight including three pacers passed the half way mark in 64:43. When the final pacemaker dropped out shortly after the 25k point it was Panuel Mkungo who took the lead. For a short while Matthew Kemboi was able to make up the deficit and to join his fellow-Kenyan in the lead. However around the 28k mark the 29 year-old Mkungo, who has a PB of 2:10:20, started another surge and this time Kemboi could not respond.
Panuel Mkungo was not among the strong favorites before the race since he had been number eight on the start list. But he crossed the line first in 2:10:35 and was well ahead of his fellow-Kenyans Benard Sang and James Kiplagat who clocked 2:12:41 and 2:12:44 respectively to take second and third. “I never expected to win the race, this is a huge surprise. It was very tough, but I felt good. I hoped to may be finish in the top three,“ said Panuel Mkungo, who comes from the small town of Voi, which is around 100k inland from Mombasa and not at altitude.
While the men missed their goal of breaking the course record of 2:09:44 the women’s mark of 2:18:35 set by Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya back in 2018 was never a target in this year’s race. A group of seven runners stayed together for long parts, passing 10k in 34:46 and then half way in around 73:30. Shortly before 25k Beatrice Cheptoo, fellow-Kenyan Veronica Maina and Worknesh Alemu of Ethiopia were the only ones to be able to hold on to the 2:27 pace. Alemu then dropped back by 28k but the other two were locked in a battle for victory until the final section. As soon as the course was going upwards towards the historic city centre with two kilometers to go Veronica Maina could not hold on. Beatrice Cheptoo, who has a fine 2:22:28 PB and who was the fastest on the start list, moved away and won in 2:27:09. Veronica Maina ran 2:27:24 for second place and Valentina Mateiko made it an all-Kenyan podium with 2:32:15.
“I am very happy to have won this race, it was tough with the wind and the uphill sections. This is my greatest victory so far,“ said 30 year-old Beatrice Cheptoo, who lives with her family near Eldoret. “I will use part of the prize money for the school fees of my two children.“
1 Panuel Mkungo KEN 2:10:35
2 Benard Sang KEN 2:12:41
3 James Kiplagat KEN 2:12:44
4 Mathew Kemboi KEN 2:13:48
5 Dominick Kipkirui KEN 2:15:45
6 Abraraw Misganaw ETH 2:18:37
7 Hüseyin Can TUR 2:19:17
8 Ömer Alkanoglu TUR 2:19:26
1 Beatrice Cheptoo KEN 2:27:09
2 Veronica Maina KEN 2:27:24
3 Valentina Mateiko KEN 2:32:15
4 Worknesh Alemu ETH 2:34:04
5 Sifan Melaku ETH 2:34:32
6 Aberu Mekuria Zennebe ETH 2:35:38
7 Zerfie Limeneh ETH 2:36:06
8 Linah Cheruto KEN 2:40:06
More information is available at: https://maraton.istanbul