Sammy Rotich, Damaris Areba Win In Des Moines

A former West Des Moines resident won the 21st IMT Des Moines Marathon on Sunday with relative ease, fulfilling a lifelong goal of his to win a major event in central Iowa. By gaining ground on Vincent Toroitich and Luke Kibet over the last 10 kilometers, 35-year-old Rotich won the race in 2 hours, 19 minutes, and 28 seconds, earning him $2,500 and a $1,000 bonus for finishing in under 2 hours.

According to Rotich, 35, Iowa is like a second home to him, thus his triumph means a lot to him.

Sammy Rotich, Damaris Areba Win In Des Moines
Sammy Rotich, Damaris Areba Win In Des Moines

“If I could, I would run in the Des Moines Marathon and win. Today, a dream of mine came true “To quote Rotich: “To me, this is quite significant. To put it simply, I feel like a home-field winner.”

The morning of Rotich’s victory, which saw temperatures as low as 45 degrees, will be remembered as a historic one for marathon running on downtown’s Court Avenue.

Damaris Areba, 27, ran a world-record 2:32:37 to win the IMT women’s marathon for the first time, beating the previous record established by fellow Ethiopian Abnet Simegn in 2014.

Emma Huston, a standout at Drake and Des Moines Roosevelt, just wiped out an even more ancient mark at the IMT. The Des Moines local finished the women’s half marathon in 1:13:48, which was faster than the 2013 mark of 1:14:19 set by Jane Murage.

Huston, now 28 years old, remarked, “Breaking the record and establishing the No. 2 time in Iowa history was entirely unexpected.” “My target time before the race was 1:15, so I was thrilled to cross the finish line in 1:13. Having my accomplishments documented in such a way means a lot to me. I am thrilled beyond words.”

Last month, Huston established the Iowa 10-mile road racing record with a time of 57:19. She finished second in the IMT women’s marathon last year in 2:41:46. Now, she is second only behind former University of Iowa All-American Diane Nukuri (1:13:17) in the Iowa state record for the half marathon.

Huston, who earned $750 in gift cards to the running store Scheels, said, “It was challenging running by myself the entire time, but I felt pretty good and the pace was comfortable.”

Equally familiar to Rotich is the experience of coming in second at IMT. In 2017, when he lost a race against his buddy Kibet, it was the most disheartening finish he’d ever experienced. Kibet won by a just two seconds, crossing the line in 2:21:32 to Rotich’s 2:21:34.

Rotich finished third in a chilly and windy race the following year, clocking in at a time of 2:25:38. Enock Birir won the race with a time of 2:23:39 that year.

When fellow Kenyan William Mutai outlasted him in 2019, Rotich had to settle with another second place finish. Despite his groin muscle trying to hold him back, Mutai finished first in 2 hours, 23 minutes, and 01 seconds. Rotich, whose injured hamstring held him back in the last kilometers, finished 25 seconds behind.

Unfortunately, Rotich’s chances of even competing in Des Moines have been severely hampered by events beyond his control during the last two years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related crowd control measures, the race had to be limited to a virtual event. In October of last year, Rotich was stranded in Eldoret, Kenya, due to his inability to get a visa to enter the United States and visit Iowa. Hearing the roaring crowds on Sunday made him feel more accomplished than winning any of the smaller events in Eldoret, he added.

The people of Iowa and the race organizers were my first priority today, Rotich stated. “No matter what, I retained faith in myself. There was no doubt in my mind that I would eventually triumph.”

Once the three runners left the Bill Riley Trail and entered Water Works Park, Toroitich, who finished second in 2:24:44, and Kibet gave up the battle. Through the last several kilometers of Gray’s Lake Park, Rotich kept up his 5:15 pace and steadily increased his lead.

Rotich, a two-time winner of the famous Dam to Dam races, stated, “At mile 20 I glanced at the clock.” “If I keep up with these men, I’ll end up going far more slowly than they will. Having my sights set on the ($1,000) prize at mile 22, I gave it my all.”

Before Sunday’s race, Rotich felt prepared and ready to win. In June’s Grandma’s Marathon, he recorded a runner-up time of 2:10:07. Until an IT band leg injury around 20 miles last month’s Quad Cities Marathon, he thought he was in good shape to win. In a time of 2:20:45, he came in third.

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Once again in good health On Sunday, nobody could have fooled Rotich into thinking he wouldn’t be taking home the silverware and donning the tiara as the victor.

Rotich added, “I see the times of these individuals.” “There are others that go at a slower pace than I do. I was certain that if I gave it my all, the result would be as I had achieved it.”

Following her victory in the Quad Cities Marathon in 2:30:29 a month before, Areba said it was challenging to get back into racing mode on Sunday.


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