VANCOUVER, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Kenyan runners made a clean sweep of the Vancouver Marathon Sunday as Thomas Omwenga won the men's title for a fourth time, while Lucy Njeri took the women's race.
With sunny conditions and the temperature hovering around 17 degrees Celsius, Paul Kimugul added to the Kenyan dominance in capturing the half marathon in a record time of one hour four minutes and 18 seconds, shaving 30 seconds off the previous best posted by countryman Kip Kangogo last year. Vancouver's Natasha Fraser took the women's half marathon in 1:15:19.
The 33-year-old Omwenga (2:24:08) broke free from fellow Kenyan Benard Onsare (2:24:10) two kilometers from the finish and sprinted home to claim the 3,500 Canadian dollar (3,474 U.S. dollars) first prize. Defending champion Gezahgn Eshetu of Ethiopia finished a distant third in 2:25:23.
Omwenga, winner of the Vancouver Marathon in 2007, 2008 and 2010, credited his training partner Onsare for pushing him to victory.
"I started having cramps in my muscles, the hamstrings (around 39 kilometers). I didn't expect to finish. So my brother, Benard Onsare, gave me motivation and said 'Let's go' with two kilometers to go," said the Ontario-based runner.
"The weather was fantastic for running, except the course is tough. I can't say it's easy to run a good time on this course being downhill and uphill. It's challenging and requires a lot of preparation." Onsare, who won the Vancouver Marathon in 2011, led the race at the halfway mark to 24 kilometers before dropping back. He regained the lead from 30 kilometers to 35 kilometers and then kept pace with Omwenga to 39 kilometers.
"It was just me and Thomas together up to the last minute," said the Alberta-based Onsare. "Thomas is my training mate for almost 12 years back home. I know the strategies. I know how strong he is. He has very good finishing. So I was so aware and I know anything can happen. We didn't know who was going to win.
"The last two kilometers Thomas was coming and I dropped back. Since I was struggling for fitness Thomas just come and pass me by."
Njeri, a specialist in distances ranging from five kilometers to marathons, called it a good day in winning the first marathon she had competed in this year. With her fitness a concern, the 34-year-old said she skipped last month's Boston Marathon to concentrate on Vancouver.
"I knew I might win because I have a lot of speed, but I have not worked for endurance. So I used the speed to keep it up from the first to the last," said Njeri, who beat many of the elite men runners in the field, finishing ninth overall, more than six minutes ahead of her closest female competition, Alice Nidirangu Waruguru (2:46:50).
"I'm happy for 2:40 because this is the first marathon (of the year), so I'm hoping the second one will be faster than this one."
Kimugul won his third consecutive race after winning 10-kilometer events in Victoria and Vancouver over the past two weekends, receiving 2,000 Canadian dollars for the win.
Canada's largest marathon through the streets of Vancouver attracted around 16,000 participants, including 4,965 runners for the 42.1-kilometer main race.