In the men's field that turned out to race at the Nike Discovery Cross Country on Sunday, January 31, 2016, only one medalist was missing from the IAAF world championship's 10,000m event in Beijing; Mo Farah. Only one was missing from the IAAF world cross country senior men's podium in Guiyang as well; Muktar Edris. All the others were present at the starting line. Geoffrey Kamworor, Bedan Karoki and Paul Tanui were in the mix of other great stars that included the Olympic and three times world champion, Asbel Kiprop, among others.
As expected, the race started out fast and furious. After the first bend, Asbel Kiprop was already at the front, together with his usual international pace setter, Andrew Kiptoo Rotich "Chepsiya". It was going to be a fast race. A 1500m runner with a personal best of 3:26.69, was becoming the pace setter for the race and was, at the same time, being paced by the same pace maker who made him run his personal best time less than a year ago!
It did not take long before Geoffrey Kamworor also appeared in front. The few athletes there in the leading pack were rapidly stretching the rest of the field leaving a single file of runners, which was unusual in the first lap of any cross country event. Someone spotted Bedan Karoki somewhere around 20th position, but he was slowly beginning to overtake other runners, as he slowly moved to the front.
It took about 3km for Karoki to reach the front. He glanced at his watch and exchanged a few words with Kamworor before the two began to move away further from the rest of the field. At about 5km, the duel was clearly going to be between the reigning world cross country champion and the silver medalist. Karoki apparently wanted to end the competition early as he kept pushing the pace harder until a small gap began to open between him and Kamworor. Kamworor then stopped suddenly and pulled out of the race.
Having opened a huge gap from the rest, Karoki eased the pace a little and continued to run till he cut the tape far ahead of Clement Langat, the 2012 African cross country champion, who was then followed closely by Stanley Kipchirchir.
In the women's senior race, Violah Jepchumba continued to make her name known by beating a stellar field that was there. I watched Violah winning the Central Rift Region cross country championships in Eldama Ravine about a week ago. I could not help noticing the way she was running in almost the same version of front running. Only that here, the competition was tougher and it was not easy to shake off the field that included Helah Kiprop, Jemimah Sumgong and Hyvin Kiyeng among others, as early as she had done the previous week.
Jepchumba was able to leave the field trailing her in a single file with 2km to go before emerging as the winner. Gladys Chesire took second while Cynthia Limo settled for third.
In the junior races, a pack of six athletes stuck together at the front until the last one kilometer before three of them broke loose and formed another pack ahead. A strong finishing kick made Mathew Kiptanui the champion. Sandra Chebet won the junior women's race almost in the same version she did last year, by creating a huge gap and staying safely ahead of the rest till she crossed the finish line.
It was a great event that created an appetite for another possible show of Karoki against Kamworor in the near future. Will it be at the national cross country trials, at the world half marathon championships, at the national Olympic trials for the 10,000m, or at the Rio Olympics?