MEXICAN distance runner Stephen Njoroge Mbure, who was born in Kenya, defended his TT International Marathon title yesterday, holding off a persistent challenge from American Bryan Morseman by a matter of ten seconds in a tense finale.
Mbure, who held an advantage for most of the contest from St Mary’s Village, Freeport – the start point – to White Hall, Queen’s Park Savannah, crossed the finish line in two hours 27 minutes, 15 seconds.
A new women’s race winner was named in Kenya’s Grace Kahura, who placed third overall in 2:27:26. TT’s Sjaelan Evans, who placed second among women at the Run Barbados marathon last month, also placed runner-up in the women’s division yesterday, clocking 3:29:07.
For their efforts, champions Mbure and Kahura left with US$6,000 each.
Despite having a determined Morseman tracking mere metres behind on the final stretch, Mbure looked comfortable and unfazed as he defended his title.
In an interview shortly after, the diminutive, soft-spoken Njorge was visibly pleased after securing his second straight TTIM title. He subtly dismissed the challenge posed by his nearest opponent during his brief remarks after the race.
“I am happy,” the 28-year-old soft-spoken runner said, adding briefly, “I trained a lot for this, so for me, it was very easy.”
Mbure and his older brother Simon Mbure, who changed their allegiance from Kenya to Mexico, placed first and second, respectively, at last year’s TTIM, with a difference of just 1.2 seconds between them. Last year, Morseman clocked 2:31:00 for a fourth place finish overall.
“...I wish I had an extra 150 yards,” Morseman lamented having kept close tabs on the race favourite.
He said too he was pleased to narrow the gap between himself and Mbure, having trailed him by over seven minutes at last year’s marathon, when Morseman placed fourth.
It ended a productive but long week for Morseman, who arrived in Trinidad, days after setting a new course record at the Marathon Bahamas, clocking 2:27:35.
Meanwhile, the first TT national to cross the finish line was Cantius Thomas, a long-time feature of local and regional marathons, who celebrated his best ever finish at yesterday’s TTIM, placing third among the men and fourth overall.
He clocked 3:05:55, which despite being an improvement from his 3:06:08 effort last year, when he finished 13th overall, Thomas took the opportunity to announce an end to his long-distance running career, saying he wants to focus on some of his other personal interests, such as gardening.
Thomas added that a return in the future, while unlikely, is not impossible.
Meanwhile, Mark Hypolite placed first in the separate Early Marathon, which fired off 3.37 am.
The 53-year-old clocked 4:43.13, followed by Samuel Furlonge (5:12:34) and Christian Persad (5:16:15).
From Friday to Sunday, the TTIM hosted three days of activities, beginning with a relay on the opening day, and followed by the 5K on Saturday.
TTIM Kiss 5K
1st- Shirvon Baboolal, M, 15:46.8
2nd- Kyle Young Lao, M, 17:09.7
3rd- Genesis Joseph, M, 17:36.5
4th- Jade Williams, F, 17:36.5
5th- Wesley Rampersad, M, 18:10.2
6th- Hayden Reid, M, 18:36.8
7th- Hezekiah Boodoo, M, 18:42.6
8th- Tyrese Bernard, M, 19:15.0
9th- Romario Peters, M, 19:21.6
10th- Liam Trepte, M, 19:21.8
1st- Stephen Njoroge Mbure, M, 2:27:16
2nd- Bryan Morseman, M, 2:27:26
3rd- Grace Kahura, F, 2:53:50
4th- Cantius Thomas, M, 3:05:55
5th- Kerwyn Mahabir, M, 3:20:03
6th- Marko Kahilainen, M, 3:23:49
7th- Jason John, M, 3:25:13
8th- Korey Gill, M, 3:26:48
9th- Mark Lee Son, M, 3:28:28
10th- Sjaelan Evans, F, 3:29:07