Birthdays spur half-marathon winners

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 February, 2011, 12:00am

The fear that he might not be around for the birth of his first child gave Thomas Kiprotich wings yesterday. The Hong Kong-based Kenyan, spurred by the possibility that his wife Nerida would give birth, ran the race of his life to win the half-marathon yesterday.

Kiprotich set a new Hong Kong mark of one hour, seven minutes and 14 seconds, beating the previous one by nearly 28 seconds - which he set in 2009. He sped around the course in quicksilver fashion so as to be by the side of his wife, who had shown signs of going into labour early yesterday.

'She got up at about 2am in the morning and had pains,' Kiprotich said. 'But then things quietened down and I decided to turn up for the half-marathon. I told her I would finish the race as quickly as I could and to call me if she got any more pains.'

In the end it turned out to be a false alarm. Another one.

The baby was due on Valentine's Day, almost a week earlier. But as of yesterday, there were no signs. Thankfully the father isn't as slow.

'Yes, our baby has been slow in coming,' laughed Kiprotich after his breezy run.

'But I ran as fast as I could for I didn't know what was happening back home. I was just thinking of Nerida and it made me go faster.'

A quick telephone call to Nerida after crossing the finish line confirmed the false alarm. Kiprotich made use of the good early morning conditions to beat another local runner Gi Ka-man (1:09:05), by almost two minutes. In third place was American Curtis Barclay-Grundler in 1:13:18.

Kiprotich said: 'Last year in this same race I finished sixth. I wasn't 100 per cent fit at that time, but today everything felt good and the weather was just perfect for a run.'

He will have to put his baby's birthday celebrations on hold for now. But yesterday another person was celebrating hers in style - Christy Yiu Kit-ching, the winner of the women's half-marathon.

Yiu turned 23 yesterday, and spread the icing on her cake by winning the women's event for the first time. She took 1:20:33 to finish the course, almost seven minutes ahead of Jane Hodgskin from Australia, while Mary Delos Santos of the Philippines came in third in 1:28:22.

'I want to go out and have a big meal now to celebrate this win and also my birthday,' smiled the petite Yiu.

Although in her final year at Chinese University, where she is studying nursing, Yiu still found time to train. 'This is the fourth time I'm running this race and I'm so happy to have won it at last. It makes it even more special as it comes on my birthday,' she added.

A total of 15,000 runners took part in the half-marathon, which was split into two starting times.

Kiprotich and Yiu were amongst the first bunch, those with the best times. One was looking to celebrate the birth of his son, or daughter, the other to celebrate her own birthday.

They both finished winners, but while one went out to have a party, the other went home to be on baby-watch.