Elijah Kemboi takes the Kosice Peace Marathon title (© Kosice Peace Marathon organisers)
Kosice, Slovakia - Battling unseasonably warm conditions, Kenyan Elijah Kemboi and Maryna Damantsevich from Belarus won the 88th edition of the Kosie Peace Marathon, the oldest Marathon race in Europe.
With a late surge after 35 kilometres, Kemboi won in 2:11:15 to take his second Marathon victory in four outings and equalling his 2:11:15 personal best.
"I could have run faster but had problems with my leg. Fortunately I managed to come back after 35 km," said Kemboi, who was hoping for a sub-2:10 performance. He appeared to be out of contention after the 30th kilometre, running behind the leading trio of two Ethiopians and one Kenyan. But at the end he beat them clearly.
Finishing second, Ebisa Merga Ejigu improved by more than two minutes to 2:12:10 in his third Marathon, ahead of teammate Gebo Burka who clocked 2:12:30. Peter Some of Kenya, who was pushing the pace between kilometres 30-35, was fourth in 2:13:56. Gashaw Asfaw, the Beijing Olympic seventh place finisher and former Paris Marathon winner, was the best on paper coming in but ended fifth, well back in 2:15:11.
Pace-makers Atalay Yirsaw and Birhanu Bekele were exactly on pace with a 1:04:30 half. 2007 winner and first sub-2:10 runner in Kosice, Williams Biama of Kenya, was unable to finish dropping out after 25 kilometres.
In the women's race, male pacer Chala Bayessa only competed the first 15 kilometres due to injury. The half-way time of just 1:17:07 was not ver promising given the warm conditions. Already a warm 17 C. at the start, the mercury rose to 20 C. by the finish putting both the course records - 2:08:33 and 2:30:50 - out of reach.
After the midway point Ethiopians tried to rule, but Maryna Damantsevich of Belarus, a 26-year-old mother of a four-year-old daughter, finished strongly and after 35 kilometres took the lead and won in new personal best of 2:33:53, bettering the 2:35:22 she set in Krakow last spring. She's now won three out of her four career marathons, including Riga 2010 and Lodz 2011.
"I wanted to run faster but it was not possible," Damantsevich said. "This was my toughest win so far. My main aim is to qualify for London Olympics."
Junior Halima Hassen of Ethiopia was second in 2:35:47 ahead of another Ethiopian, Seada Kadir Adilo, who clocked a personal best 2:36:28.
In total 6600 runners from 38 countries competed in different races, supported by an enthusiastic crowd of 35,000 people around the city center. Slovak Foreign Minister and keen Marathon runner Mikulas Dzurinda, 56, ended his 27th Marathon in 3:30:35, finishing 198th in the men's division. The men's winning mark is the seventh best in the history of the race (and the fifth best winning performance) while the women's performance was the fourth best ever in the history of the race.
This years edition was devoted to 50 years since the win of legendary Abebe Bikila in Kosice in 1961.
Organisers for the IAAF
Leading Results -
1. Elijah Kemboi, KEN, 2:11:15 =PB (1:04:31/1:06:44)
2. Ebisa Merga Ejigu, ETH, 2:12:10 PB
3. Gebo Burka, ETH, 2:12:30
4. Peter Some, KEN, 2:13:56
5. Gashaw Asfaw, KEN, 2:15:11
[no others sub-2:20]
1. Maryna Damantsevich, BLR, 2:33:53 PB (1:17:15/1:16:38)
2. Halima Hassen, ETH, 2:35:47
3. Seada Kedir, ETH, 2:36:28 PB
4. Naomi Jepngetich, KEN, 2:37:17 PB