PARKERSBURG - Although the fog never burned off during Saturday's running of the 30th edition of the Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon, former five-time consecutive champion Julius Kogo made a valiant return after missing last year's race.
The 31-year-old Kenyan never had a ray of sunshine come through the overcast conditions during his 13.1-mile stroll which featured 98 percent humidity, but he rolled to his sixth career title in a time of 1 hour, 3 minutes and 42 seconds and also earned the title of the Road Runners Club of America National Half Marathon champion.
"I had a visa problem," Kogo said of not being in Parkersburg and missing the chance to win six straight last August.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Julius Kogo, of Kenya, breaks the tape at Saturday’s Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon. It was Kogo’s sixth victory in the race’s history, and it came a year after he was unable to compete in the race due to visa issues.
"My visa was a problem and I just went to my Kenyan embassy, but they denied my visa so I didn't get in.
"I said let me train toward this year. From (last) August, I didn't come to America and this is my first race in 2016."
Kogo, who has grown into a fan favorite throughout the years by his domination of the course, was pretty much his usual self on Saturday.
The lead pack started off fairly strong, but it already had dwindled to just Kogo and eventual runner-up Teshome Mekonen - a 21-year-old Ethiopian - by the time they reached the 5K distance. Mekonen's final clocking was 1:04.49.
By the time Kogo sprinted onto West Virginia 95 off old Camden Avenue he held a solid 300 meter lead. After passing the 11-mile marker, he was in full command of the race and had pushed ahead by about a quarter of a mile.
Sprinting down toward the finish line on Market Street, Kogo was welcomed with massive applause as he added another championship winning $3,000 prize to his resume after breaking the tape.
Kogo burst onto the scene in 2010 by posting a winning effort of 1:02.08, which was a course record until he went back-to-back in 2011 with a steal best time of 1:01.47. Victories in 2012 (1:04.24) and 2013 (1:02.07), which was the year he became the first four-time champion of the half marathon was followed by his winning tome of 1:02.25 in 2014.
"You know, I want to thank God because it's a very long journey from Kenya to here and God has given me the chance to win this another time for me," Kogo added.
"I'd like to thank (race director) Chip (Allman) and thank God for that one. Knowing the course and I like the course, the time is not what I was expecting. I just wanted to try and push for the course record, but maybe next time I'll try."
Mekonen earned $2,000 for his runner-up effort as be barely edged Hillary Too, a 37-year-old Kenyan who won $1,500 for placing third with a time of 1::04.53. Kenyan Simion Chirchir, who is 32 and was wearing bib number four, grabbed the last cashing spot of $1,000 for fourth by beating fifth-place finisher Hailu Mekonnen, a 36-year-old Ethiopian. The difference was 1:06.24 to 1:07.19.
"This was very good," Kogo said of his sixth career win in the Mid-Ohio Valley. "At the fifth and sixth mile I just pushed because I wanted to win my title. My body was very tired today. God willing I will be back."