Paul Lonyangata wins the 2020 Taipei Marathon (Organisers) © Copyright
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Lonyangata and Merachi take Taipei Marathon titles

Paul Lonyangata of Kenya and Askale Merachi of Ethiopia cruised to victory at the Taipei Marathon, a World Athletics Bronze Label race, in Taipei City on Sunday (20).

Lonyangata, the Paris Marathon winner in 2017 and 2018, broke from compatriot Elisha Rotich and Ethiopia's Chele Dechasa in the 32nd kilometre to finish unchallenged in 2:09:18 in his first marathon of the year. The 28-year-old also smashed the previous race record of 2:09:59. Lonyangata, who has a 2:06:10 lifetime best, was a member of the Kenyan squad at last year's World Championships but did not finish that race in Doha.

Rotich, the runner-up at the Seoul Marathon last year in 2:06:12, slowed over the final eight kilometres but held on to finish second in 2:13:07. Further back, Tiidrek Nurme of Estona was third in 2:16:11. Suffering from ankle pain, Dechasa, who has a 2:06:25 lifetime best, dropped out in the 34th kilometre.

 

Askale Merachi taking the 2020 Taipei Marathon title (Organisers)Askale Merachi taking the 2020 Taipei Marathon title (Organisers) © Copyright

 

In the women's race, Wegi had already dropped her final challenger five kilometres into the race and forged on alone, reaching the half in 1:12:47, on target to challenge the 2:27:36 race record. But forced to battle some strong winds, she slowed in the second half before eventually crossing the finish line in 2:28:31. It was the second marathon victory in as many outings over the distance this year for Wegi, who won the Houston Marathon in January with a 2:23:29 lifetime best.

Her compatriot Asifa Kasegn was second in 2:32:00 with Zinash Mekkonen rounding out a podium sweep for Ethiopia in 2:32:24.

 

Organisers install treadmills in athletes' hotel rooms ahead of the Taipei Marathon (Organisers)Organisers install treadmills in athletes' hotel rooms ahead of the Taipei Marathon (Organisers) © Copyright

 

Organisers attracted 12 elite runners from eight countries on four continents, in an effort to symbolise the common global fights against the COVID-19 pandemic. To align with national pandemic protocols, they were forced to abide by strict restrictions, which included a 15-day quarantine from their arrival in Taipei City on 2 and 3 December. To help the runners maintain their condition while in quarantine, organisers had treadmills put in each athlete's hotel room. Athletes were then allowed access to a track for training in the final two days before the race.

In all, 28,000 runners participated in the event, making it the largest mass race in the world since the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. The island nation of 23 million acted swiftly when the pandemic broke, and has been widely lauded for its efforts in containing the spread of the virus, with less than 800 cases reported.

Bob Ramsak for World Athletics