MEXICAN Stephen Njoroge completed his hat-trick of the TT International Marathon titles while, first-time winner Kenyan Hellen Mugo captured the women's category, on Sunday morning, as they both collected $5,000US in cash prizes.
The 38th edition of the 26.2-mile race began at St Mary's Junction, in Freeport, shortly after 5 am and ended at Whitehall, Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain. The slower runners or walkers started at 3.30 am but followed the same course.
Njoroge, who was born in Kenya but represents Mexico, stopped the clock at 2:34:30 and was closely followed by Colombian Jose Ararat Diaz, who clocked 2:35:51. TTs Collin Pereira was impressive as he placed third in 2:40:48
The 29-year-old Njoroge, who became the fourth person to complete a hat-trick of titles, said,” I feel very happy to win today especially because I have defended my title. My focus was just to win because I have been training for this race for four months.” Commenting on the race, he said, “It was nice, I enjoyed the course. I'm happy with my time; the weather was not too bad today.” The three-peat champion is hopeful he can return next year to win his fourth trophy in succession.
Pereira was elated after his best ever performance at this distance. “The race was easy for me, I was running 75-80 miles per week, I told myself today that I was going to run at the Kenyans. Unfortunately, when they reached San Juan, they dropped the pace on me and I was setback a bit. Next year for sure I will be able to beat them!
“I'm comfortable with the time because it's my personal best so, next year I will try for 2hr 20 min to hopefully qualify for the Olympic Marathon in the future.” The 27-year-old, who is one of the leading distance runners in TT, is trained by former marathon runner Brian Maynard. Pereira added, “Two years ago, I placed fourth behind Curtis Cox and he is passing on the baton to me and I want to take it over for him.”
There was a clean sweep by the Kenyans for the top three spots in the women's category: Mugo crossed the line in 2:51:05; Grace Kahura (2:52:06) captured the silver medal; and five-time winner Leah Kigen (2:52: 47) managed to place third. TT's first female runner to complete the distance was Sjaelan Evans in 3:38:22, who placed sixth overall among the women.
Mugo said after the race, “I'm really happy to be number one and I want to come back and defend my title. I was not that satisfied with my time because the climate was pretty hot.” She said she enjoyed running with her partners but the humidity was her biggest challenge.
Men's Top 10: Stephen Njoroge 2:34:30; Jose Elmer Ararat 2:35:51; Collin Pereira 2:40:48; Dismas Ondimu 2:43:01; Christopher Mitchell 2:43:10; Thomas Adams 2:51:35; Michael Honore 2:54:20; Guswil George 3:02:07; Nigel Simon 3:04:11; Curtis Cox 3:09:06.
Women's Top 10: Hellen Mugo 2:51:05; Grace Kahura 2:52:06; Leah Kigen 2:52:47; Palmenia Agudelo Berrio 2:56:02; Everline Atancha 3:10:04; Sjaelan Evans 3:38:22; Chantel Le Maitre 3:40:59; Patricia Sorias 4:01:41; Lara Littlepage 4:04:16; Shardie Mahabir 4:06:57
Cash Prizes for top 5 in men & women: US 5000, US 2000, US 1000, US 800, US 500