Despite the warm temperatures (around 23 celsius at the start) the Kenyan tore through the early kilometres of this IAAF Silver Label Road Race with only Morocco’s Mohamed El Hachimi brave enough to follow. The pair passed three kilometres in 8:03. That was enough for the Moroccan.
Mutai was alone from that point forward reaching 5km in 13:35 and it appeared that he had Deriba Merga’s 2009 event record of 27:24 in sight. At the 6km mark the course turned into a strong wind and the workload got much harder as he pushed on alone. But like Merga, who was chasing the then-world record of 27:02, he visibly slowed over the final two kilometres and had to be content with the victory in 27:42.
El Hachim hung on for second place in 28:26 with Simon Ndirangu of Kenya taking third (28:38). The challenge of Tadese Tola - who ran 2:05:10 at this year’s Dubai Marathon and has a personal best 10,000m time of 27:04.89 - never materialised. The Ethiopian was fourth in 29:01.
"I knew what the course record was and if there was someone to push pace I could have run even faster," Mutai said. "I still have to train well. In Kenya I didn’t train very well for a long time. It was raining a lot and the roads where I train (in Kapng’entuny) were very muddy.
"I was expecting that I would run even faster but when we turned along the river it was so windy. And I pushed it alone from 3km. If there was someone with me I could have run faster. If I was having pacemakers until 5 or 6km it would have helped."
After winning both the Boston and New York Marathons (2:05:06 course record) last year Mutai was considered a favourite to be named to the Kenyan Olympic team. But when he failed to defend his Boston title, dropping out due to the heat, the selectors overlooked him. Rather than be discouraged he kept training to the best of his ability.
"That motivated me to look forward to run more races. It did not affect my mind," he insists. "I am still looking forward to further competition. I am not sure of my next race but I will be preparing for a Marathon. I don’t know which one yet."
For his victory he earned $6,000 plus $4,000 for the 'gender bonus’. The women’s elite field were given a head start of 4 minutes 5 seconds. But Mutai passed them shortly after the seven kilometres mark in pursuit of the event record.
Scherf collects surprise women's victory
The women’s race was captured by American distance runner Lindsey Scherf in 33:12. The resident of Fayetteville, North Carolina was surprised with her victory but revealed her tactics went exceedingly well.
"I went into the race just trying to compete," the 25-year-old graduate of Harvard University said. "I would have been happy to be in the top three."
"I studied my competition. I knew the men would have the stagger on us, so on the ladies side, if I could go hard the first 2k I would have a chance. I went through the first mile in 4:59 which is quite fast - more than I am capable of. They went with me, they went by me at 2km then I passed them in the next kilometre.
"With a kilometre to go I wasn’t sure if I had them. I looked behind me and realised the three people closing on me were all men. I was pushed to the limit and I exceeded my expectations to win this race."
Alemitu Abera was 2nd in 33:35 with her Ethiopian compatriot, Alemtsehay Misganaw, 3rd in 33:40. Abera was the victim of stomach cramps and was writhing in pain immediately following the race.
Paul Gains for the IAAF