Colombian runner Juan Carlos Cardona won his first Kiss Trinidad and Tobago International Marathon yesterday to end Kenya's dominance in the event which began in 2008 with Simon Sawe's first of three consecutive wins.
Cardona, who took part in the London Olympic games last year, had a strong showing in the 30th Anniversary of the local road race, crossing the finish line at Queen's Park Savannah in two hours, 23 minutes and 52 seconds to beat Kenyans Mark Chepes and Peter Ayieni into second and third place respectively and thus win the top prize of US$3,600.
Chepes stopped the clock at two hours, 24 minutes, 33 seconds just behind the winner. Ayieni crossed the line more than two minutes later in 2:26:27. Despite the time difference however, the men's race was still very close right up until the runners reached the final stretch in Port of Spain.
Trinidad and Tobago's Curtis Cox (2:43:36) was the highest Caribbean finisher in the race. He placed eighth after switching from the half marathon to the full marathon at the last minute. He received $1,000 for finishing the course in under two hours, 50 minutes.
But the talk of the town was American Mary Akor's seventh win over the grueling 26-mile, 385-metre course that took the runners from St Mary's Junction, Freeport to Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain.
Akor, who pocketed US$3,600 for her first place finish, bettered her time from last year by more than four minutes, crossing the line in 2:49:14.
Following her home were Kenyans Leah Kigen who finished the race in 2:52:30 to clinch second place and Judy Kimuge who was third in two hours, 59 minutes.
T&T's Christine Regis was fourth in the women's marathon. She took three hours 21 minutes and 30 seconds to finish the race.
The women's race was also very close at the start and in the middle. It was Akor alongside Kigen and Kimuge setting the pace as the women went past Chaguanas and then Curepe as a group, but Akor said her experience helped her come out ahead of the Kenyan duo.
"The two Kenyans girls (Kigen and Kimuge) were pushing the pace and I was like, 'oh my God they are going to beat me today,' but I am an experienced runner so I was just going to let them run their race and I am going to run my race.
"I think I ran 18 miles then I was feeling good and then I took the pace but each race is really different and you never know what will happen. I was able to defend my title so I was really happy," Akor told the media after her victory.
Akor added: "I feel great (winning seven titles). I love to come to Trinidad because it feels like home and everyone was supporting me. I am so grateful.
"By God's grace definitely I will come back again," she insisted.
In the men's event, Chepes was more than six minutes faster than his second place clocking of 2012. But it was still not enough for the Kenyan to take the top spot, with Cardona timing his run perfectly to emerge as the champion.
Cardona was in the lead pack of five runners at the nine-mile marker, right up to the Caroni bridge with Stephen Tanui and Ayieni keeping him company as they quickened the pace heading into Curepe and then into the capital city.
Paul Wachira, the 2011 champion, who finished the 2013 race in ninth place in 2:43:48, was in eighth position at the nine-mile marker with Cox behind him in tenth.
But they were no match for the Olympian from Colombia.
Also in winners' row yesterday was Tonya Nero who won the women's half marathon in 1:23:42 to make it two wins in two years.
She also won the 5K race at the Savannah on Saturday.
Following her to the finish line yesterday was Michelle Rose La Fleur who was second in 1:25:32 and Jenelle Nedd, third in 1:34:07.
Lionel Dandrade won the men's half marathon (1:20:02) for the second straight year, finishing the race ahead of Kade Sobers (1:20:15) and Shirvan Baboolal (1:22:09) who were second and third respectively.
Kiss T&T International Marathon
Top five Men's results
1. Juan Carlos Cardona (Columbia)--2:23:52
2. Mark Chepes (Kenya)--2:24:33
3. Peter Ayieni (Kenya)--2:26:27
4. Jefferson Rivas (Venezuela)--2:27:56
5. Busienei Joshua Kipkosgei (Kenya)--2:40:41
Top four Women's results
1. Mary Akor (USA)--2:49:14
2. Leah Kigen (Kenya)--2:52:30
3. Judy Kimuge (Kenya)--2:59
4. Christine Regis (T&T)--3:21:30
Men's top finishers
1. Lionel Dandrade--1:20:02
2. Kade Sobers--1:20:15
3. Shirvan Baboolal--1:22:09
Women's top finishers
1. Tonya Nero--1:23:42
2. Michelle Rose La Fleur--1:25:32
3. Jenelle Nedd--1:34:07