Xiamen, ChinaOn a crisp and windy morning, Robert Kipkorir Kipchumba won the Xiamen International Marathon today (2) – an IAAF Gold Label Road Race – in 2:08:07, breaking the course record.
It was also a personal best for the 26-year-old Kenyan, who improved upon his 2:09:54 set in Rotterdam in 2009.
“The wind was very strong so I tried my best to push,” said Kipchumba, who took down the course mark of 2:08:47 set last year by Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa. “I broke my personal record. I dreamt I had.”
More than a minute and a half behind him was the runner-up, Ethiopia’s Mesfin Hailu Lemma, who clocked 2:09:50 in his debut. He ran in Paris last year but had fallen and didn’t finish.
“It’s good but a little hilly and windy,” said Lemma.
Third place went to a Xiamen returnee, fellow Ethiopian Alemayehu Shumye who ran alongside Lemma for much of the race after the 33 kilometre mark. His 2:09:58 is his second best performance after a 2:08:46 career best set in Frankfurt in 2009.
Xiamen returnee, Kenyans Elias Kemboi Chelimo, and Dickson Kiptolo Chumba were the pacesetters, reaching 30 kilometres in 1:32:24 with seven runners at their heels.
Expectations were high for both Paul Kirui, a newcomer here, and Morocco’s Rachid Kisri, a returnee, who were the fastest in the field on paper. Kirui with a 2:06:44 PB from Rotterdam 2006, was in the cluster group until kilometre 35 when he fell more than minute back of the leaders. He eventually finished seventh in 2:12:19.
Moroccan Kisri, who arrived with a 2:06:48 PB from Paris in 2009 and finished third here that same year, was going strong until close to the 32nd kilometre when he was no longer seen in the lead group. By kilometre 35 he drifted well back some 23 minutes behind the leaders.
Gilbert Chepkwony was fourth in 2:10:19. The Kenyan remained in the cluster for most of the race staying close to Lemma for several kilometres past the 35 mark when they were both 20 seconds behind Kipchumba. Shumye at that point lagged five seconds behind but made up for the difference by the 40th kilometre when Chepkwony fell back five seconds.
Expectations were also raised for the 2010 Beijing Marathon winner, Siraj Gena. The poor weather conditions in the capital resulted in his slowest times on record. Although his Xiamen performance - fifth in 2:11:12 - was better than the Beijing win by more than four minutes, his PB remains from his 2:08:39 winning performance in Rome last year.
Ethiopian Zembaba Yigeze finished sixth in his third Marathon just a second behind Gena with 2:11:13. He had fallen behind by kilometre 30, lagging by more than 16 minutes behind the leaders, but made a stunning recover to catch up to be in the top five by kilometre 35.
Ethiopian Negari Terfa, the runner-up here last year who clocked 2:07:41 in Berlin in 2009, finished a distant eighth at 2:18:18, more than six minutes behind seventh place finisher Kirui.
The women’s race was disappointing in terms of times but a few highlights stood out for individual runners.
The top three women performers did not break any personal records while the course record of 2:22:38, set in 2008 by China’s Zhang Yingying, was never under threat. The victory went to the fastest in the field, Ethiopian Amane Gobena, who clocked 2:31:49, followed closely by compatriot Alemitu Abera (2:31:54) and China’s Wang Jiali who clocked 2:32:00.
Gobana was well off her personal best of 2:24:13 set in Seoul last March.
With less-than-ideal conditions, Abera’s first race in China did not deliver the results she expected. Her PB still stands at 2:27:56 from Istanbul in October 2010.
“The weather was windy from the beginning, because of that it’s not her best time,” said Haji Adilo, her manager and a former Ethiopian Marathon runner. “If there was stronger Chinese participation in this race, maybe we would have better times.”
Wang Jiali’s PB (2:26:34) stands from her 2008 Zhengzhou race though she won the Beijing October marathon with 2:29:31, faster than her 2009 Xiamen performance.
The best performance came by Desta Girma a relative newcomer to the Marathon circuit. The 30-year-old Ethiopian ran her first marathon in Madrid in 2010 with a time of 2:34:39. Here, she improved her PB to 2:32:10 finishing fourth.
Zimbabwe’s Tabitha Tsatsa, a 2008 Olympian, began cautiously but rallied in the second half to finish fifth in 2:34:00.
Ethiopia’s Asha Gigi, who clocked 2:26:05 in Paris in 2004, ran alongside China’s Wang and eventually finished sixth in 2:34:09. The Xiamen race was a new route for Gigi who has run either the Paris or Dubai Marathons every year since 2003 except last year.
Although China’s Jin Lingling, finished seventh in 2:34:10, improving her career best by nearly two minutes from her third place in Xiamen last year.
Another new addition to Xiamen and the marathon circuit was Dehninet Demsew. The Ethiopian fell at some point in the race and was limping to the stage after finishing eighth in 2:37:18. She had a Half Marathon best of 1:12:02.
The winners will each take home 40,000 USD with Kipchumba collecting an additional $20,000 - $500 for each second he ran under the previous course record – incentive bonus.
In all, more than 62,000 runners from 40 countries and regions participated in the morning’s races in this Chinese coastal city of 2.5 million.