(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
Moscow, August 10, 2013 -- At the 10-kilometer mark of women's marathon here at the 14th IAAF World Championships today, defending world champion Edna Kiplagat was running in 15th position, 29 seconds behind the leader, Italy's Valeria Straneo. Defying the hot and humid conditions, the Italian record holder had hit the 10-K mark in 34:12, a 2:24:30 pace, with seven other women close behind. Kiplagat seemed unresponsive.
"I just wanted to let my body relax a bit and prepare my mind," said the soft-spoken Kenyan. She continued: "I wanted to get to know about the course."
By the time the event was over, the 33 year-old athlete more than knew the three-loop course hard by the Moscow River: she had mastered it. Displaying the patience and confidence of a true champion, she slowly caught the lead group while Straneo, like a tiny locomotive, continued to keep the pace honest. Kiplagat didn't know then that it would come down to just she and the Italian in the final kilometers and that she would prevail in 2:25:44, becoming the first woman ever to successfully defend a world marathon title. It was harder than she thought.
"My body was tired from the start," Kiplagat admitted. "When we started the race it did not react immediately, so I had to start running slowly." She added: "It was hard for me."
Kiplagat didn't join the lead group of Straneo, Ethiopia's Meselech Melkamu and Feyese Tadesse, Kenya's Valentine Kipketer and Lucy Kabuu, China's Jia Chaofeng, and Japan's Kayoko Fukushi until 15 kilometers. At that point, Straneo was content to lead, saying that she was feeling good and that the hot weather didn't bother her.
"Because I just did my pace," Straneo told reporters. "I felt comfortable at this pace. So I just run; I didn't care about the other girls." She added: "I was happy today it was warm because I run well in warm weather."
Straneo kept each 5-kilometer segment well under 18 minutes, and slowly the pack melted away behind her. By halfway (1:12:58), the lead pack was six, then dwindled to just four by 25-K (1:26:36): Straneo, Melkamu, Kiplagat and Fukushi. The medals would come from this group, but who would win them? Fukushi said she wasn't worried about that, at least not yet.
"I just tried to enjoy myself," she said through a translator. "I just thought about enjoying the race."
Between 30 and 35 kilometers, Straneo and Kiplagat dropped Melkamu, who was quickly overtaken by Fukushi who --without knowing it at the moment-- had locked in the bronze medal. Ahead of her, Straneo ran stride for stride with Kiplagat until 40 kilometers (2:18:22). Straneo thought she was dreaming.
"I couldn't believe it because I just turned behind at 35 kilometers and just saw one girl," Straneo recounted. "I can't believe it."
Just steps beyond the 40-K point, Kiplagat surged and Straneo had no answer. The Italian knew immediately that she was running for second.
"I expected that Edna would pull away," Straneo said. "My legs hurt so bad, so I keep my pace. I couldn't change my pace."
Kiplagat glided into Luzhniki Stadium alone and soaked up the applause of the modest-sized crowd. She raised her arms as she broke the tape and ran into the history books. Straneo clocked 2:25:58, and Fukushi 2:27:45.
"It was hard because the effort was not easy and I know everybody was going for a medal," Kiplagat concluded. "They knew the defending champion was coming."
Well behind on time (2:36:12), but still in ninth place, American Deena Kastor ran what she said was her final high-level marathon, and her first in a World Championships. The 2004 Olympic bronze medalist said she gave it her all, but the head and humidity were just too much.
"It was a torture," said the always-gracious Kastor, 40. She continued: "It was a hard race out there. I felt like I was trying to get those negative thoughts out, so it was a lot of mental work out there"
In all 46 women finished, but 23 more dropped out.
PHOTO: Edna Kiplagat celebrates after winning her second world marathon title in Moscow. Photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly. Used with permission.