Alemu Megertu wins the Seville Marathon (© Organisers)
Alemu Megertu and Asrar Abderehman secured an Ethiopian double at the Zurich Maratón de Sevilla, a World Athletics Elite Label road race, on Sunday (20) with huge world-leading PBs of 2:18:51 and 2:04:43 respectively.
Both men’s and women’s races had strong depth as seven men finished inside 2:07 with the 13th finisher clocking 2:08:30, while nine women went sub-2:26, confirming the course is conducive to fast times.
Perfectly paced by Hassan Aouchar, the women's contest opened at a brisk pace with opening splits of 16:13 (5km) and 32:44 (10km), suggesing a finishing time well inside 2:20, which would smash the course record of 2:23:13. By then the leading quintet was formed by Ethiopians Megertu, the fastest entrant thanks to a 2:21:10 PB, Meseret Gola, runner-up at last November's Barcelona Marathon in a PB of 2:24:09, Kalayu Chekole, Chimdesa Kumsa and Alema Gebremedhin. Behind them, Britain's Jess Piasecki, eager to improve on her marathon best after smashing her half marathon PB with 1:07:20 last month, passed through 10km in 33:24.
Megertu and her compatriots went through halfway in 1:09:25, more than a minute ahead of Piasecki. But Kumsa, then Gebremedhin and finally Chekole lost ground from the heading duo and the race became a two-woman battle between Megertu and Gola, both still following the pacemaker.
The key movement came at 35km when Gola simply could not live with the steady 3:17 pace and began to lose contact. Megertu, meanwhile, metronomically maintained her cadence and reached the finish line in a massive career best of 2:18:51, having ran halves of 1:09:25 and 1:09:26.
Runner-up Gola also set a massive PB of 2:20.50 while Chekole completed an Ethiopian sweep of the podium with a lifetime best of 2:21:17. Kumsa held on for fourth place (2:22:13), while Piasecki overtook Gebremedhin just before 40km and finished fifth in 2:22:27, becoming the second-fastest Briton in history behind former world record-holder Paula Radcliffe.
Abderehman prevails over debutant Mamo
The men's pacemakers, Enock Onchari and Wilfred Kimeli, were asked to maintain a 2:57/km tempo in the hunt for a race record (2:04:46) but they covered the opening 5km in 14:54, a bit slower than expected, closely followed by the main favourites which included Eritrea's 2015 world champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie, his compatriot Awet Habte and a large Ethiopian contingent led by Abderehman, Adugna Takele and debutante Adeladlew Mamo among others.
The pace heated up over the following kilometres and the leading group reached 10km in 29:39, 15km in 44:22 and the half-way point in 1:02:31, still eight seconds outside the required pace to break the record. By then, 12 men remained in the heading pack. Way back, Spain's 40-year-old Ayad Lamdassem, who finished fifth at the Tokyo Olympics, was in the chasing group, timed at 1:03:16 by halfway.
The steady pace progressively whittled down the main group and by the time the pacemakers dropped out at 30km, the Ethiopian pair of Abderehman and Mamo took command and opened a sizeable gap on the rest. The leaders took turns at the helm but it was Mamo who made most of the pacing duties with his fellow Ethiopian running alongside.
By 35km the lead duo was timed at 1:43:17 with Ghebreslassie and Takele 27 seconds in arrears. A 35-40km split of 15:26 seemed to ruin the chances of a course record but Abderehman unleashed a devastating kick with some 1200m to go and built a sizeable margin over Mamo to secure the win in 2:04:43, a course record by three seconds and an improvement of more than three minutes on his previous best.
Runner-up Mamo produced a promising 2:05:12 debut, while Ghebreslassie got rid of Takele in the closing stages to complete a classy podium in 2:05:34, a massive PB for the 26-year-old Eritrean. Debutant Habte finished fifth in 2:06.25.
Running negative splits (1:03:17/1:03:08) Lamdassem placed sixth to improve his own national record by 10 seconds (2:06:25). Likewise, Israel’s Maru Teferi dipped under 2:07 for the first time to improve on his national record, while compatriot Tachlowini Gabriyesos, a member of the Athlete Refugee Team at the Tokyo Olympics, clocked a PB of 2:10:09.
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics
1 Alemu Megertu (ETH) 2:18:51
2 Meseret Gola (ETH) 2:20:50
3 Kalayu Chekole (ETH) 2:21:17
4 Chindesa Kumsa (ETH) 2:22:13
5 Jess Piasecki (GBR) 2:22:27
6 Alema Gebremedhin (ETH) 2:22:28
7 Adawork Aberta (ETH) 2:23:39
8 Majida Maayouf (MOR) 2:24:09
9 Gladys Puchuaranga (PER) 2:25:57
10 Citlali Moscote (MEX) 2:26:13
1 Asrar Abderehman (ETH) 2:04:43
2 Adeladlew Mamo (ETH) 2:05:12
3 Ghirmay Ghebrelassie (ERI) 2:05:34
4 Adugna Takele (ETH) 2:05:52
5 Awet Habte (ERI) 2:06:25
6 Ayad Lamdassem (ESP) 2:06:25
7 Maru Teferi (ISR) 2:06:58
8 Abdi Gelchu (ETH) 2:07:15
9 Amare Girmaw (ETH) 2:07:35
10 Haimro Alema (ETH) 2:08:15