The atmosphere was electrifying. Athletics enthusiasts flocked Nairobi’s Ngong Racecourse to watch the clash pitting stars from the uniformed forces.
In that gunpowder was two-time World cross country champion Geoffrey Kamworor of National Police Service and world half marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie of Kenya Defence Forces –and, at best, former World cross country silver medalist Bedan Karoki.
But the script never went as expected. Ronald Kwemoi, a 25-year-old Commonwealth Games 10,000m bronze medalist, produced a sudden burst of speed that left pre-race favourites gasping for breath.
He shot to the front at the eight-kilometer mark and opened a 30-metre gap on the penultimate circuit, breezing the tape in 31:03.
Kandie, who is attached to Embakasi Garrison, came second in 31:06 as Edwin Bett (31:11) Nicholas Kimeli (31:12) came third.
Phenus Kipleting (31:15) and Daniel Mateiko (31:20) sealed the top six spots.
Kwemoi said: “I was certain to win the race. When I closed in on them, I just felt that it was a done deal. I expect to win gold at Africa cross country championships and then prepare for Olympic Games.”
“When I realised Kamworor and Kandie were losing energy I decided to step up my pace,” said Kwemoi.
But Kandie said: “I had trained well. I really wanted to win this title. I will go back to the drawing board.”
Kwemoi, who trains in Japan, tactically stayed behind the chasing pack as Kandie and Kimeli dictated the proceedings.
Kamworor and Karoki fell off the pace before disappearing off the radar.
The script went as expected in women’s race as defending champion Sheila Chelang’at re-enacted her winning formula: gun-to-tape front run.
She sped away from the gun with her arms pumping and went through the first lap in a swift 5:56.
Chelang’at, who formed a leading pack of 11 athletes, controlled the race even as her challengers in Ruth Chepng’etich, the world marathon champion, and Daisy Cherotich breathed down her neck. She dictated the high pace in the first lap before Olympic 3,000m steeplechase silver medalist Hyvin Kiyeng dropped off.