Watching Prefontaine Classic DL in Eldoret, Kenya, by Justin Lagat

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Ayanleh Souleiman wins Bowerman Mile, photo by PhotoRun.net

Justin Lagat wrote this piece about the Prefontaine Classic, after he watched the event last evening. 
Watching Prefontaine Classic DL in Eldoret, Kenya, by Justin Lagat

Live coverage of the IAAF Prefontaine Classic Diamond League was being aired in Kenya by DSTV starting with some minutes remaining to midnight and ending almost at 1 am. Just like last year, I was in the same restaurant during the same Diamond League meeting, together with some of the same fans that were there supporting Silas Kiplagat.

Much anticipation caused many Kenyan fans to stay up that late in order to watch the event. Of great interest to the fans was David Rudisha's comeback after being out of competition due to a knee injury since May 2013, the Bowerman mile in which Asbel Kiprop and Silas Kiplagat were to feature, the women 1500m, the men's 5000m and the 3000m women steeplechase.

The women 1500m and men's 5000m events were the highest moments for Kenyans and the two runners who won in these events, Hellen Obiri and Caleb Ndiku respectively, were inspiring. They are, coincidentally, the two athletes who won gold medals for Kenya at the world indoor championships early this year.  Both of them fought hard here up to the finish line during the last laps of their races holding off the pre-race favorites in both events. Abeba Aregawi had been undefeated since August 2012 and to end that, Hellen Obiri had to give her all strenght. Caleb Ndiku on the other hand has been specializing mostly in the 1500m events and was not expected by many to be the Kenyan going to hold off Yenew Alamirew from winning a second consecutive Diamond League title. His finishing was also daring and spectacular.

Generally, the winners at the Eugene Diamond League did not have it easy this time round while winning. It was as though an indication that track running is beginning to get more competitive, given the surprise winners and the records that were registered here, and that it is no longer that easy to predict the winners. In the men's 800m, neither Mohammed Aman nor David Rudisha got the chance to run in their own class as Amos Nijel of Bostwana emerged the winner. Rudisha who had received a lot of cheering from the crowds as he was being introduced was running well until after crossing the 600m when Aman ran past him and was soon out sprinted by other runners also as he neared the finish line eventually ending up in 7th position.

The women 3000m steeplechase was another down moment for Kenyans as Lidya Chepkurui and Milka Chemos for the second time this season failed to get to the podium positions. Emma Coburn who won during the Shanghai League by breaking away earlier in the race tried the same technique here, but she was not given the same chance. Although, thanks to her, many records were lowered in the event with the winner, Assefa Sofia, setting a new meeting record and world leading time of 9:11.39. Chepkurui finished in 6th position while Chemos failed to finish. Kirui Purity was the best placed Kenyan in position five.

Just like last year, the Bowerman Mile was the last event to be shown, and perhaps the most anticipated of them all amongst the fans I was with. The race began in a fast pace and before runners could cover the first 400m, fans here were already on their feet. Some were moving closer to the big screen, pointing at Silas Kiplagat who was still at the back and using gestures as if to remotely push him forward. Silas seemed to be responding. He was overtaking other athletes and slowly getting to the front. There were both Asbel Kiprop's and Sila's fans in the room and was the cause of all the excitement as the race neared its climax. Silas was already strategically placed in a position to attack at the bell as Kiprop continued to lead. With about 200m to go, Souleiman Ayanleh suddenly surged forward overtaking and blocking Kiprop into the inside lane. Silas Kiplagat followed him and Kiprop lost hope in chasing them. Ayanleh maintained a devastating finishing kick to win in a record time of 3:47.32 followed by Kiplagat. Asbel Kiprop finished 7th. Most of the athletes who finished in this race recorded their personal best times.

The Prefontaine Classic may not have been the best outing for some Kenyan athletes but it was definitely a great meeting to watch for track fans everywhere in the world.

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