Brothers Stephen and Simon Njoroge almost did not make it to the start of the marathon, but when they did, the Kenyan siblings snatched gold and silver respectively in the 36th edition of the Trinidad and Tobago International Marathon, yesterday.
Younger brother Stephen won in a time of two hours, 23 minutes and four seconds (2:23:04) in the 26.2-mile journey from St Mary’s Junction, Freeport to White Hall at the Queen’s Park Savannah. Simon finished just behind in 2:23:05. Race director Francis Williams-Smith saw the Njoroge brothers and another women’s athlete in the vicinity of All Saints Anglican Church, walking away from Queen’s Royal College (QRC) - the location where a shuttle left to go to the starting point at Freeport.
Williams-Smith said the athletes told him they were going to take a bus by a park. Williams-Smith said he explained to them he was the race director and gave the athletes a drop to QRC to get the 3.30 am shuttle. If the Njoroge brothers seemed uncertain on how to get to the starting line, there was no doubt it was a dominant performance when they got to Freeport.
Finishing a distant third was Colombian Andres Ruiz Malaver, who stopped the clock in 2:26:05. Curtis Cox was the first local runner to finish when he placed ninth overall in 2:53:43, while 2017 champion Jose Alejandro Varela had to settle for seventh place in 2:39:14.
Stephen, who was running the TT marathon for the first time, was elated to bring home the victory. “I am very happy to win this race today (yesterday) because it was my first time in Trinidad and Tobago,” Stephen said.
Stephen, who is 27 years old, said the training with his brother paid off and they supported each other throughout the race. Stephen said, “I am very happy because we helped each other, so the training we did together was very good.”
The Kenyan runner said he enjoyed running on the course because everyone cheered him on. “No problems with the course, everything was good, the people were good, they cheered so we enjoyed it.” Stephen is hoping to return next year to defend his title.
The Kenyans also dominated the women’s field finishing first and second. Leah Kigen defended her title claiming victory in 3:00:11, while her fellow countrywoman Rebecca Jelagat won silver in 3:04:15. Kigen also won the marathon in 2018. Colombian Palmenia Raquel Agudelo Berrio, who won the 5K event on Saturday, finished third among the women in 3:06:46.
Kigen, 38 years old, said it felt great to win because the competition this year was tougher than last year. “I am feeling good, because I did not know if I would make it because the competition was so hard,” Kigen said.
On running with her fellow Kenyan Jelagat, Kigen said, “We ran together and we were just helping each other.” Kigen said although the conditions were cool during the race because of the rain, she did not want to run fast because if the rain stopped it would get hot.
“The weather was not bad, it was good, but when we were running I knew that after it stopped raining it may get humid so I wanted to take care.”
Other competitors participated in the walk and the marathon relay. Among those completing the event was TT Olympic Committee president Brian Lewis. It was the fourth year Lewis ran the event to raise awareness for the National Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund.
French diplomat Sidy Diallo, who was born in Guinea, completed the event barefoot. Diallo has run over 150 marathons in seven continents since making his debut in October 2010.