First time’s a charm for Kenyan marathoner

For his first marathon, Japhet Kipkoech didn’t have a ton of expectations.

The 26-year-old Kenya native and Louisville resident just ran his first half-marathon this summer in San Diego, where he finished fifth. He was just hoping to break 2 hours, 30 minutes in Saturday’s Mill Race Marathon.

Not only did Kipkoech beat that target time by nearly 7 minutes, he beat everyone else in the field.

The former University of Louisville runner, who just turned pro, won the 26.2-mile race in 2:23:08, and earned $1,500 as the top male finisher.

“I just came in here to do some speed work on a flat course. I didn’t expect to win, Kipkeoch said. “I just coming here for training, but I’m happy I won it. It’s amazing.”

Kipkoech broke away from the rest of the marathoners early and followed the half-marathon leaders until the split near the 12-mile mark.

Suleman Abrarm, a Kenyan currently based in Morristown, New Jersey, finished second in 2:26:43. Alexander Cushman of Madison, Wisconsin, was third at 2:29:03.

Defending champion Bryan Morseman of Bath, New York, took fourth in 2:30:15.

“It was nasty out there,” Morseman said of the humidity, which was at 98 percent around the start time.

“It was just so humid, and I never realized that the leader was that far out ahead. I thought it was a guy right in front of us. The race didn’t turn out the same way it played out last year, where it was just me and Geoffrey (Kiprotich, the 2014 winner) pushing each other.”

The top female runner, April Woo, also from Louisville, finished in 3:06:48, also winning $1,500.

Woo took the lead around Mile 20 or 21 and pulled away for the victory. Claudia Brinkruff of Greenfield took second in 3:11:50. Chelsea Hoffmaster of Cincinnati was third at 3:24:26.

“I thought I’d take it easy the first half and see what I had the second. I felt pretty good,” Woo said. “I felt pretty good and just tried to hold onto my pace. I’ve gotten second in a lot of races, so it was kind of nice to win one.”

Woo has won a couple of trail marathons and has twice finished second in the Kentucky Derby Marathon. She is training for the New York City Marathon, which is in five weeks.

A 38-year-old mother of four, Woo didn’t begin running seriously until about five years ago. She has run about 20 marathons since.

“I just started running … and kind of stuck with it, and felt like I was dying on morning runs. But it’s been great with friends to bond and have some time to learn from other people and really grow myself.”

Meanwhile, in the half-marathon, Micah Uemura of Indianapolis and Aurelio Rutto of Terre Haute were the men’s and women’s winners. Ueumra, a former University of Indianapolis soccer player, finished in 1:05:32.

Rutto, a Kenya native, ran 1:18:18.

“The time was not really good, but I’m happy,” Rutto said.

Another Kenyan, Ernest Kibet, won the 5K in 15:55. Kibet, who ran cross-country and track at the University of Louisville and now lives in Louisville, set a personal record for a road race.

“When I look at a race, I want to see a crowd of people,” Kibet said. “I like the competitive aspect of it more than anything else.”

Anna Murdock of Trafalgar was the women’s 5K winner in 20:24. The former Indian Creek and Franklin College runner was the 2015 NCAA Division III national champion in the 800 meters.

“It’s always fun to win,” Murdock said. “You never know what your competition is going to be. You just have to go out and run your race. I’ve never done this one before, so it’s fun to see a different course.”

Race course director Randy Stafford said results won’t be official until early next week after potential prize-money recipients are checked against International Association of Athletics Federations suspension lists for possible doping violations.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5628.