BAGUIO CITY -- Despite the Filipinos' gallant effort, there was no stopping the Kenyans from ruling the inaugural Philex Mining Kennon Global Marathon that ended in this city last Sunday, April 15.
But the biggest news of the event came from the ladies' category where Philippine team stalwart Jhoan Banayag reigned supreme, beating Kenyan Irime Kimchumba by 7 minutes, a very far margin in terms of marathon running.
Four Kenyans crossed the finish line ahead of the field in the men's division of the 21k Conqureror's Race of the all-uphill marathon which started in Camp 3 in Tuba, Benguet, passed through the historic and scenic Kennon Road and ended in Burnham Park in this city.
Benjamin Kipkazi, a 36-year-old native of Nairobi, Kenya, ran a blistering pace to rule the event at a time of 1 hour, 21 minutes and 40 seconds. He took home the champion's purse of P40,000.
Four seconds behind Kipkazi was his compatriot Josphat Kiptani Too who crossed the line almost simultaneously with third placer Samson Tuwei. They were awarded P30,000 and P20,000 respectively.
A fourth Kenyan, Philip Ronoh, followed suit at 1:25:59. He received a consolation prize of P2,000.
Filipino bet Eric Panique, a member of the Philippine team, could only place fifth with a clocking of 1:26:34. He was followed by Julius Sermona, also a member of the national team, who crossed the finish line at 1:27.09. The two, however, were able to beat two other Kenyans, namely David Kipsang and Eliud Kering who came in two minutes behind. Filipinos Modesto Madalang and Arnold Galap rounded up the top 10. Panique received a bonus of P10,000 from El Cielito Hotel as the first Filipino finisher while the rest of the top 10 got P1,000 as consolation prize.
In the ladies' event, Banayag, a gold medalist of the 2007 Southeast Asian Games, was simply a sight to behold as she effortlessly ran side-by-side her long-legged rival from Kenya through Kennon Road. She capitalized on her familiarity with the terrain and sprinted in the last three kilometers, leaving behind the Kenyan. She clocked 1:41:26, while Kimchumba registered 1:48:37.
Banayag took home P40,000 while Kimchumba received P30,000. Another Filipina runner, Misrelle Gilbuena placed third at 2:00:06. She received P20,000.
Local runners were not to be completely outdone.
In the 9K Lionhearts Race, which started in iconic Lion's Head, Hernanie Sore of the University of Baguio made the mammoth crowd that gathered at the finish line proud when he beat Kenyan James Mebei for the top prize.
Sore finished the 9k event at 37:08:07, more than a minute faster than the Kenyan. Another local bet, Marson Tarcelo, placed third. The three received P10,000, P6,000 and P4,000 as prizes.
Other University of Baguio runners who bagged prizes in the historic event were Mercy Taypoc, Flordeliza Donos and Johan Caido. The three topped the 9k women, 5k women and 3k men. Former marathon queen Cristabel Martes placed second in the 9k while University of Cordillera stalwart Cesar Castaneto ruled the 5k division.
Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan and Baguio Rep. Bernardo Vergara have already declared that the Kennon Global Marathon will be an annual event supported by the city. The two predict that the marathon will be the "next big thing" in Baguio and will become as big as the Panagbenga.
A total of 900 runners joined the event sponsored by Philex Mining Corporation, LBC, Tiong San Department Store, Fortune General Insurance, Smart Communications, El Cielito Hotel, Villa Mia Inn & Apartelle, and supported by the municipal government of Tuba, Benguet, the Department of Public Works and Highways, Philippine National Police, Boy Scouts of the Philippines, National Institute for Information Technology, Baguio Emergency Communications Group, Spectrum Bag-iw, 911 On Call, Baguio General Hospital, and jeepney drivers associations in Baguio and Benguet.*