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Prague, May 11, 2014 -- Kenya's Patrick Terer used a late surge to score a career-best victory in the men's race while Ethiopia's Firehiwot Dado returned to dominant form in winning the women's race at a windy 20th edition of the Volkswagen Prague International Marathon.
Terer sliced 45 seconds off his personal-best to win the men's title in 2 hours, 8 minutes and seven seconds, besting fellow Kenyan Evans Chebet by 10 seconds while Cuthbert Nyasango of Zimbabwe took third in a national record 2:09:52.
In the women's race, Dado took control of the women's race just passed the halfway mark and then cruised to a nearly-four-minute victory in 2:23:34, just nine seconds off the personal-best she ran to win the 2011 TCS New York City Marathon. Ethiopian women claimed the first six places.
The race turned out to be an incredible disappointment for Kenya's Moses Mosop, who was hoping to get back on track following a period of injury. The 28-year-old was never a factor, however, and wound up finishing 12th in 2:20:37, the slowest time of his career by nearly nine minutes.
MOSOP'S 'BIG ENGINE' LACKS USUAL STEAM
Considered a heavy favorite before the race, Mosop again struggled to find any semblance of elite marathoning form in his return from leg injuries.
A minor tweak during a workout in January of 2013 escalated into a full-blown hamstring injury later that year, contributing to a sub-par eighth-place finish in 2:11:19 in October's Chicago Marathon. While training this winter, Mosop suffered a right knee injury and a subsequent left calf issue that forced him to miss more than three weeks of training and to scratch from April's Boston Marathon.
The 28-year-old, who ran 2:03:06, the second-fastest marathon time in history, in the 2011 Boston Marathon, said this week that he felt he was at "80 percent" strength and hoped "my body responds."
But Mosop's body didn't take to even the modest opening tempo set by pacemakers Peter Kirui and Ronald Kipkemboi, who went through 5-K in 15:13 and 10-K in 30:05, nearly 15 seconds off schedule. At that point he had already fallen about 15 meters off the tail end of the lead pack. Mosop continued to slow from there, and by the half-marathon point – his split was 1:08:19 – he was running nearly five minutes behind the leaders.
"My body felt empty from the start," Mosop said afterward. "From the third kilometer, I began to suffer but continued to the finish out of respect for the race. Not enough speed work was done. But I have no excuses. I [was] healthy. I must now make a new start after some rest."
STRONG SECOND HALF LAUNCHES TERER TO THE TOP
The lead pack in the men's race remained tight into the second half of the race. The first significant break came just past the 30-kilometer mark when Terer and Evans Chebet surged as pacer Peter Kirui stepped off the course. The remaining runners in the top group --Kenyans Nicholas Kipkemboi and Nicholas Manza and Nyasango-- were unable to cover the move, relegating the outcome to a two-man race.
Within the first two kilometers after their break, Terer and Chebet opened over a 100-meter lead and ran side-by-side for nearly five kilometers. They hit the 35-K point in 1:45:23, easily putting each other on personal-best pace.
"Our plan was to make a move around 30-K," Terer said. "When my colleague (Chebet) and I went and saw that nobody was catching us around 35 or 36-K, we decided to continue pushing."
Chebet momentarily took the lead just passed the refreshment station at 36-K but Terer tossed his water bottle and pulled back onto Chebet's left shoulder. Less than a minute later, Terer pulled wide to the left and surged ahead, avoiding cobblestones by running between the paved tram tracks. By the 37-K point, he had opened a 10-meter advantage and continued to pull away. His lead ballooned to 10 seconds at 40-K.
Despite running into a stiff headwind along the Vltava River and into Old Town, Terer maintained strong form right through to the finish, earning his third victory in four career marathons. The 23-year-old, who ran 8:13.96 in the 3000m steeplechase as teenager, won the Turin Marathon in 2012 and 2013 and finished third here last year. Terer earned a €10,000 ($13,746) bonus for breaking 2:08:30.
"Winning means a lot to me, especially after last year when I had visa problems getting here," Terer said. "My target was to run 2:07:30 but 2:08:07 is good for me. If I come back to Prague next year, I will prove that I can run 2:07:00. That's a promise."
DADO DOMINATES DESPITE DETERIORATING CONDITIONS
While the outcome in the men's race didn't really unfold until late, it was apparent early on in the women's race that Dado was going to factor into the ultimate result as she ran at the front of the lead pack, just behind the pacemaker, from the opening gun.
Like the men's race, the pace of the women's race opened moderately but picked up steam between 15 and 20-K when the lead group of 10 runners was pared to five, and then whittled to three as Dado, Ashete Bekere and Tsehay Desalegn forged through the half-marathon point in 1:11:45, some seven seconds clear of Fantu Eticha and nearly three minutes in front of Kenya's Flomena Chepchirchir, who entered with the fastest PR in the field at 2:23:00. Chepchirchir, who dropped out of the Boston Marathon with a breathing problem, wound up 10th in 2:40:20.
As the women approached the 23rd kilometer, Bekere began to drop off and by the 25-K mark she had fallen 22 seconds behind Dado and Desalegn, who pushed ahead together for almost another four kilometers before Dado made a quick, decisive surge that opened a seemingly-instant four-second advantage that swelled to 1:12 by 35-K. Desalegn eventually faded to fourth place.
"Around 25-K it seemed like the pace had slowed down," Dado said through an interpreter. "So I told the pacemaker to push a little bit. I spoke with the lady from our team [Desalegn] and told her to keep pushing with me but she couldn't manage."
When Dado crossed the 35-K pad in 1:58:33, she was still on pace for a personal best. The stiff headwind and brief drizzle of rain that hit the men along the Vltava, impacted the women even sooner. The ill-timed change in conditions – wind gusts exceeded 20 kilometers per hour – slowed the final six kilometers of the race significantly and Dado had to settle for her second-best time in 12 career marathons. Her time was good enough, however, to earn a €30,000 ($41,238) time bonus.
"My plan and my preparations were to run around 2:20 to 2:21," Dado said. "But after 34 kilometers, we could not push how we wanted because of a little bit of rain and strong wind also. I tried but I could not run my best."
LOCAL GOAL UNMET
The race was an important qualifying competition for Czech men looking to compete in the European Championships this summer in Zurich. None of the entrants, however, achieved the qualifying standard of 2:17:30. Running together throughout the race, Petr Pechek wound up 13th in 2:21:41 followed by Vit Pavlista in 2:21:49 and Jiri Homolac in 2:22:12. The top Czech woman was Katerina Kriegelova, who crossed 11th in 2:51:07.