Foreign runners sweep top spots

WHEN James Kemboi arrived here for the first time last month, he had only one thing on his mind - to make history.

As soon as a friend told him about The Straits Times Run at the Hub, the Kenyan was determined to be the first runner to cross the finish line at the new National Stadium.

And so the 21-year-old embarked on hour-long runs every day, struggling at first with the heat and humidity here.

In what he called a "warm-up", he finished second in the 10km Yellow Ribbon Prison Run a fortnight ago.

Yesterday, the lithe Nairobi native fulfilled his wish, crossing the ST Run finish line first out of 21,000 participants to win the men's 21km crown.

"It's a great feeling - titles can be won and lost, but I will always be the first runner to finish at your magnificent new stadium," he said, grinning from ear to ear over his winning time of 1 hr 10min 39sec.

Colin Tung kept pace with Kemboi early on and was the best Singaporean men's finisher, taking fourth spot in a personal best of 1:15:43.

Said the 25-year-old: "I was second last year (in the 15km category), but the field was stronger this time and I had to push really hard in the second half of the race."

Setting the pace among local women was Rachel See, who placed second in the 21km race (1:32:29). In the 10km category, the runners-up spot went to Ng Yu Jun (42:12), who edged out national triathlete Winona Howe (42:18) after a late burst.

"I didn't take much notice of the scenery because we were going really fast - it's my first ST Run and I had fun, even if I lost out on second place by a close margin," said Howe, 19.

Belgium's Vanja Cnops, a PhD student at the Nanyang Technological University, topped the women's 21km section in 1:26:27.

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"I wasn't expecting to win, but I guess the new route motivated me to keep fighting until the end," said the 27-year-old, who also won the 10km race at the Shape Run last month.

Nepal's Shiva Rai claimed the men's 10km title (35:30), while Kenyan Valentine Serem finished first among the women (38:59). All winners received items by sponsors Panasonic, Aibi and New Balance.