Kenyan athletes dominate again at 2011 Pattaya Marathon

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Following recent tradition it was another Kenyan sweep of the top prizes at the 2011 Pattaya King’s Cup Asian Marathon last weekend as both the men’s and women’s races were headed by athletes from the East African nation.

In the men’s marathon 29-year old Lawrence Kiptoo Saina was first to cross the finish tape outside Central Pattaya Beach in a time of 2:21:03, exactly 3 minutes ahead of second placed Mohammed Abduh Bakhet from Qatar who had a titanic battle for the runner-up spot with Teruto Ozaki of Japan, just pipping the far east Asian athlete on the line.

Lawrence Kiptoo Saina from Kenya crosses the line to win the men’s 2011 Pattaya Asian King’s Cup Marathon. Lawrence Kiptoo Saina from Kenya crosses the line to win the men’s 2011 Pattaya Asian King’s Cup Marathon.

The winner Kiptoo Saina was more than 10 minutes outside his personal best of 2:09:52 set at the Porto marathon in Portugal in 2006, but the undulating course in Pattaya and the high humidity, even very early in the morning, have always restricted the athletes’ abilities to run fast times here.

Kenya’s Elizabeth Cheruiyot Chemweno win’s the women’s marathon event.Kenya’s Elizabeth Cheruiyot Chemweno win’s the women’s marathon event.

In the women’s marathon race there was another battle to the finish line as both Elizabeth Cheruiyot Chemweno of Kenya, who celebrated her 33rd birthday last week, and Japan’s Noriko Higuchi went neck and neck for most of the course.  Coming down Beach Road to the finish line the two athletes could not be separated as the thousands of fans lining the course cheered them on.  Finally, within sight of the finish line, Chemweno put in a kick that took her ahead of her rival and she was able to hold this slight advantage to the finish line, breaking the tape in a time of 2:44:04, just one second ahead of Higuchi.

The Japanese star had recently set a personal best of 2:28:49 at this year’s Tokyo marathon and Chemweno was also well down on her PB, once again outlining the difficult nature of the Pattaya course which took the marathon runners all the way out to Ban Amphur on Sukhumvit Road before looping round back to Pattaya through Jomtien.

“Jae Ma” (Auntie Dog) takes her furry friends for their annual run.“Jae Ma” (Auntie Dog) takes her furry friends for their annual run.

Both the men’s and women’s marathon fields were dominated by the international runners with no Thai athletes featuring in the top ten places.  The first of the home nation runners to cross the line was 30-year old Srisung Boonthung, a double gold medal winner in the 5,000 and 10,000m at the 2007 Southeast Asian Games in Korat, who struggled here at the longer distance and finished fourteenth overall in a time of 2:35:50.  In the women’s race the best Thai athlete was Natthaya Thanaronnawat who completed the course in 2:53:31.  Both Thai runners received prestigious King’s Cup trophies and 70,000 baht each for their efforts.

This year the Pattaya marathon also doubled up as the Asian Championships which resulted in Mohammed Abduh Bakhet of Qatar and Japan’s Noriko Higuchi being crowned the male and female champions for 2011.

With over 2 million baht in prize money on offer at this year’s race it was the most lucrative in the 18 year history of the event and both the Kenyan winners of the marathon were rewarded with 200,000 baht each for crossing the line first.

Men’s half-marathon winner Thailand’s Sanchai Namket (right) is congratulated by runner-up John Murikic Mwangi of Kenya.Men’s half-marathon winner Thailand’s Sanchai Namket (right) is congratulated by runner-up John Murikic Mwangi of Kenya.

Thai athletes fared considerably better in the shorter distances last Sunday with national champion Sanchai Namket taking first place overall in the men’s half marathon in a time of 1:12:13, edging out John Murikic Mwangi of Kenya on the line, and Sonthiya Saiwow finishing as runner-up in the female event behind China’s Chow Chi Ngan, the winner coming home in 1:28:55.

The home nation runners also dominated the quarter marathon (10.55km) race with Natthawut Imnum and Chantana Panyakul finishing top of the male and female categories respectively.

The wheelchair marathon race also saw Thai athletes to the fore with the first six places going to the home nation and Prawat Wahoram crossing the line first in an impressive time of 1:44:41.

As well as the competitive events there was also a 3km student fun run/walk held along 2nd Road and Pattaya Beach Road that saw a great number of schools and youth clubs take part.

Altogether the organizers estimate some 10,000 runners and walkers took part in the Pattaya marathon this year which can once again be considered another sporting success for the city by the sea.

Road race winners receive their trophies from Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome.Road race winners receive their trophies from Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome.

The wheelchair athletes proudly show off their trophies. The winner of the event, Prawat Wahoram, is far left of picture.The wheelchair athletes proudly show off their trophies. The winner of the event, Prawat Wahoram, is far left of picture.

The agony - and the ecstasy.The agony – and the ecstasy.

A despondent Noriko Higuchi misses out on first place in the women’s marathon by just one second. A despondent Noriko Higuchi misses out on first place in the women’s marathon by just one second.

The athletes line up at the start of the 2011 Pattaya King’s Cup Asian Marathon.The athletes line up at the start of the 2011 Pattaya King’s Cup Asian Marathon.

Staff from the Dusit Thani Pattaya are all smiles after completing the course.Staff from the Dusit Thani Pattaya are all smiles after completing the course.

The young and the not so young join forces out on the course.The young and the not so young join forces out on the course.

Runners underway at the start of the quarter-marathon.Runners underway at the start of the quarter-marathon.

Lawrence Kiptoo Saina from Kenya was the winner of the men’s marathon in a time of 2:21:03.Lawrence Kiptoo Saina from Kenya was the winner of the men’s marathon in a time of 2:21:03.

A wheelchair athlete checks his time as he crosses the finish line.A wheelchair athlete checks his time as he crosses the finish line.

Pattaya’s youth turned out in force to take part in the 3km fun run.Pattaya’s youth turned out in force to take part in the 3km fun run.

China’s Wai Fong Poon finished second in age category in the women’s half marathon.China’s Wai Fong Poon finished second in age category in the women’s half marathon.

Time for a smile at the finish line.Time for a smile at the finish line.

Runners savour the accomplishment of completing the half marathon.Runners savour the accomplishment of completing the half marathon.