Rome, ItalySouad Ait Salem from Algeria won the women’s race at the 13th edition of the Rome Marathon improving the women's course record to 2:25:08 earlier today. The previous record was held by Ukraine's Tetyana Hladyr who took the honours in 2006 in 2:25:44.
In the men's division Elias Chelimo Kemboi from Kenya also ran impressively on a warm day crossing the finish-line first in 2:09:36. The Kenyan came to the Italian capital with a previous PB of 2:15:01 set in Dubai last year.
Souad Ait Salem showed her potential last month when she won the Roma-Ostia Half Marathon in 1:10:29 and confirmed that in today's Rome Marathon where she lowered her PB from 2:28:22 (Thessaloniki in 2006) to 2:25:08.
Four women dipped under 2:30 with Hellen Kimutai from Kenya finishing runner-up in 2:26:46 ahead of Slovenian veteran Helena Javornik (2:28:53), and Kenyan Lenah Cheruiyot whose 2:29:43 was a huge new PB beating her 2:33:44 with which she won the Venice Marathon last year.
The Algerian winner, who was born in Mecheria on 6 January 1979, set the early pace with Javornik at a course record rhythm passing 10km in 34:04. Cheruiyot and Kimutai followed one second behind the leading duo.
Ait Salem kept a solid pace at halfway (1:12:42) inside the course record. At 30km she changed gear pulling away from Cheruiyot and Kimutai. Javornik, who ran with the leading group until 25km, admitted in the post-race press conference that she had some problems after 30km and lost ground on Ait Salem who clocked 1:43:12 with a 10-second lead over Cheruiyot and Kimutai.
The eventual winner continued to increase the pace building up a gap of 38 seconds on Kimutai at 35km (2:00:18).
Ait Salem's victory in Rome represented a special present for her upcoming marriage which will take place next week in Algeria. It was the second fastest time ever run for an Italian marathon behind Margaret Okayo's 2:24:59 in Milan 2002.
"I came here to run 2:25 and break the course record. I suffered from cramps in the final 5 km because it was very warm. I would like to buy a car as a present for next week's marriage. My dream is to be in the top-three in Osaka this summer", said Ait Salem.
Kimutai, who is mother of four children, finished strongly finishing in second place with 2:26:46 seven years after her first appearance in the eternal city when she was third in the 2000 Millennium Marathon.
"The race went well. The Rome course is fast apart from the cobblestones", said Kimutai.
Ivana Iozzia, who was the first italian in eighth place in 2:35:26, clinched her second national title.
The men's race started with the first 5km run in 15:16 (3:03 per km). Pacemakers Richard Limo (World 5000m champion in Edmonton 2001) and Henry Kapkiai kept a course record pace running 15km in 45:38. Limo and Kapkiai passed the halfway mark in 1:04:11. Nine seconds behind followed the Kenyans Korir Kiprotich, Elias Chelimo, Jonathan Kosgei, and Albert Matebor, Ethiopia's former Olympic bronze medallist Tesfaye Tola, and former European 10,000m champion Josè Manuel Martinez from Spain.
At 26km Limo and Kiprotich led by two seconds over a big group which included Tola, South African Norman Dlomo, Kosgei, Matebor, Kemboi, Martinez and Italian Migidio Bourifa.
One of the pre-event favourites Alberico Di Cecco (winner in Rome two years ago with 2:08:02) suffered from an injury in the first part of the race and was forced to drop out at 28 km.
After pacemakers finished their job Martinez took the lead briefly at 35km (1:47:12) closely followed by Kemboi, Bourifa, Tola, Kosgei and Matebor.
Kemboi launched his attack pulling clear of Martinez at 36km. With two kilometres to go the Kenyan increased his lead over the Spaniard to 15 seconds. At this point his victory was no longer under threat, and he crossed the finish-line in the Fori Imperiali in 2:09:36 beating Martinez by 36 seconds. Third was last autumn's Venice Marathon winner Jonathan Kosgei in 2:10:25. Chelimo Kemboi and Jonathan Kosgei are training partners.
Migidio Bourifa finished fourth in 2:10:30 winning the Italian title.
Winner Kemboi Chelimo trains in Kaptagat in a group guided by Italian coach Claudio Berardelli which also includes Benson Barus, Benson Chrono and last year's Rome winner David Mandango Kipkorir. He is married and has two children. This year Kemboi finished second in the half-marathon in San Blas in Puerto Rico in 63:37.
"I was prepared to win this race. It was my first serious marathon after finishing third in Dubai in 2006", said Kemboi.
Martinez was also delighted with his second place in Rome, an important test in his build-up to this summer's marathon at the World Championships in Osaka. "I found the course very hard. It was harder than I expected. This year I am working only on the marathon this winter and I will run this distance in Osaka", said Martinez.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Results from the Maratona della Città di Roma:
1 Elias Chelimo Kosgei (Kenya) 2:09:36
2 Josè Manuel Martinez (Spain) 2:10:12
3 Jonathan Kosgei (Kenya) 2:10:25
4 Migidio Bourifa (Italy) 2:10:30
5 Albert Matebor (Kenya) 2:10:42
6 Tesfaye Tola (Ethiopia) 2:10:45
7 Norman Dlomo (Kenya) 2:11:47
8 Samson Kosgei (Kenya) 2:12:39
1 Souad Ait Salem (Algeria) 2:25:08
2 Hellen Kimutai (Kenya) 2:26:46
3 Helena Javornik (Slovenia) 2:28:53
4 Lenah Cheruiyot (Kenya) 2:29:43
5 Natalia Volgina (Russia) 2:30:31
6 Yang Fengxia (China) 2.34:45
7 Haile Lema (Ethiopia) 2:35:01
8 Ivana Iozzia (Italy) 2:35:26