Degitu Azmeraw wins the Amsterdam Marathon (© Organisers)
Ethiopia’s Degitu Azmeraw smashed the women’s course record at the TCS Amsterdam Marathon with 2:19:26, the second-fastest debut in history for the distance, while Kenya’s Vincent Kipchumba won a close men’s contest in 2:05:09 at the IAAF Gold Label road race on Sunday (20).
On a morning with perfect windless conditions and temperatures between 10-12C, the pace in the women’s race was swift from the outset. Azimeraw was one of six athletes in the lead pack and passed through 5km in 16:26 and 10km in 32:49. The six women were still together through the half-way point, reached in 1:10:00 exactly, and 30km, covered in 1:39:40.
It was only after then that the real racing began and the group was whittled down to five at 35km (1:56:14) with Azimeraw, Tigist Girma, Azmera Gebru, Besu Sado and Mimi Belete still in contention.
The quintet eventually dispersed over the final few kilometres with Azimeraw – who had clocked 1:06:07 for the half marathon this year – forging ahead to win in 2:19:26, taking almost two minutes from Meseret Hailu Debele’s 2:21:09 course record set in 2012. Former world record-holder Paula Radcliffe is the only woman to record a faster marathon debut, having clocked 2:18:56 in 2002.
“I wanted to see what it was like to run a marathon,” said Azimeraw. “I was expecting a time of about 2:20 so this result is definitely a success.”
Girma was second in 2:19:52, taking almost seven minutes off the PB she set when winning in Ottawa earlier this year. Gebru finished third, replicating her position from last year, but was rewarded with a PB of 2:20:48, while Sado – a former 1500m specialist making her marathon debut – was fourth in 2:21:03, also inside the previous course record.
Bo Ummels, another debutante, was the top Dutch finisher and so became the national champion, clocking 2:32:34.
As was the case in the women’s contest, the men’s race really got going after 35km. Up until that point, a large pack of nine men were still in contention, having gone through 10km in 29:27 and the half-way point in 1:03:00.
Kenya’s Elisha Rotich and Vincent Kipchumba and Ethiopia’s Solomon Deksisa and debutant Betesfa Getahun took the initiative after going through 35km in 1:44:07. Just before entering Vondelpark at 39km, Rotich and Deksisa accelerated and built up a small lead. Both pursuers, however, came back under the leadership of Kipchumba.
After leaving the park at the 41-kilometre point, Kipchumba ran away from the others to finally finish in Amsterdam’s Olympic Stadium in 2:05:09. Deksisa was second in 2:05:16, just holding off Rotich (2:05:18). Getahun also finished well below 2:06 on his debut with 2:05:28.
Kipchumba improved his personal record of 2:06.56 from April this year and was happy:
“We had a very strong group and the pace at the entrance to Vondelpark was very fast,” said Kipchumba, who improved on his PB of 2:06:56. “I started to close the gap with the two front runners. I was hoping for a time of 2:05:50, so I’m very satisfied with 2:05:09.”
The Dutch top runner, Abdi Nageeye, felt some pain in his right hamstring from 10km onwards and had to settle for ninth place in 2:07:39.
“My condition is fine, but mentally this was very tough,” he said. “Nevertheless, I am happy with my second-fastest time ever. Now I have to recover well and start planning smartly for the Olympic Games.”
Eric Roeske for the IAAF
Gemechu retains Delhi Half Marathon title with big course record
Ethiopia’s Tsehay Gemechu retained her Airtel Delhi Half Marathon title in 1:06:00 on Sunday (20), taking 50 seconds off the course record she had set 12 months ago at the IAAF Gold Label road race.
Gemechu’s compatriot Andamlak Belihu also retained his title, clocking a PB of 59:10 to finish within four seconds of the course record.
The women’s race came down to a thrilling head-to-head duel over the final five kilometres between the 21-year-old defending champion and her compatriot Yelamzerf Yehualaw.
A large pack went through 5km in 15:43 before the male pacemakers brought the leading group of six past 10km in 31:22, indicating that the course record was very much under threat. One by one, runners became detached until only Gemechu and Yehualaw remained as they went through 15km in 47:05.
Coming into the final kilometre, Yehualaw – who won the African Games half marathon title in August – edged in front and briefly looked like she was going to cause an upset. But with the finish line approaching, Gemechu dug deep and managed to claw her way past her rival to notch up a personal best while becoming just the second woman to retain a title in Delhi.
“I was tired after Doha (where she finished fourth in the World Championships 5000m two weeks ago) but I wanted to come here and fight for the course record. I knew I was mentally strong,” said Gemechu, who becomes the sixth-fastest Ethiopian woman for the distance.
Yehualaw, even younger than the winner having turned 20 in August, took more than three minutes off her previous best for the distance when finishing just one second behind Gemechu in 1:06:01.
Zeineba Yimer, who started to lose contact with the leading pair just before 15km, held on to make it an Ethiopian 1-2-3 when she crossed the line in third place in 1:06:57, the same position as she had finished in 2018. Kenya’s 2017 world cross-country champion Irene Cheptai had a solid half marathon debut to finish fourth in 1:07:39.
The men’s contest also saw a thrilling head-to-head battle over the final few kilometres.
Six men passed 10km in 28:08. Belihu was still accompanied by another Ethiopian, Solomon Berihu, and the Kenyan pair of Kibiwott Kandie – who had made much of the pace in the middle stages of the race – and Alfred Barkachas.
The lead quartet reached 15km in 42:11 but between 17 and 18 kilometres firstly Barkach and then Kandie couldn’t stay with the relentless momentum and surges from the two Ethiopians and drifted backwards.
Berihu pushed again at 18km and Belihu looked in trouble for several minutes but recovered his poise and reeled in his rival with little more than a kilometre remaining before pulling away for victory.
“At about 18km I started to suffer some back pain; that possibly cost me the course record,” said Belhiu, who still managed to take eight seconds off his PB to move to seventh on the Ethiopian all-time list. “I have been mainly focusing on the track season in my training until recently but I always knew I was going to come here and so I had that in mind.”
Berihu, just 20, posted one of the fastest half marathon debuts ever when he came home second in 59:17 while Kandie hung on for third in 59:33.
Organisers for the IAAF
1 Andamlak Belihu (ETH) 59:10
2 Solomon Berihu (ETH) 59:17
3 Kibiwott Kandie (KEN) 59:33
4 Alfred Barkach (KEN) 59:46
5 Josephat Boit (KEN) 1:01:18
6 John Lagat (KEN) 1:01:23
1 Tsehay Gemechu (ETH) 1:06:00
2 Yelamzerf Yehualaw (ETH) 1:06.01
3 Zeineba Yimer (ETH) 1:06:57
4 Irene Cheptai (KEN) 1:07:39
5 Edith Chelimo (KEN) 1:07:40
6 Alem Nigus (ETH) 1:08:25
Rono and Masai-Robertson break Canadian all-comers' records in Toronto
Philemon Rono won the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon for the third time on Sunday (20) in a thrilling contest which saw four men finish within 13 seconds of each other.
The diminutive Kenyan, nicknamed ‘Baby Police’ for his role as a policeman, smashed his own Canadian all-comers’ record with a time of 2:05:00 at the IAAF Gold Label road race.
Behind him, Lemi Bernahu of Ethiopia, who had been leading until the final kilometre, took second in 2:05:09, Uganda’s Felix Chemonges third in 2:05:12 and defending champion Benson Kipruto of Kenya fourth in 2:05:13.
“It was important to win three times, because Toronto is like my home,” said Rono. “When I come here, I enjoy myself. I have a lot of friends from Kenya here. I am really, really happy to win today.”
While Rono achieved an incredible record, earning CDN$30,000 for the victory along with CDN$50,000 for the all-comers’ record, it was his compatriot Magdalyne Masai-Robertson who claimed the women’s victory with an enormous personal best of 2:22:16. That beat the course record set by Mimi Belete last year by 13 seconds and improved the Canadian all-comers' record by one second.
For the first time in its 30-year history, conditions were near perfect (8C and 5km/hr wind at the start).
A trio of pacemakers took a pack of six men through the halfway point in 1:03:08 and 30 kilometres in 1:29:24 before Lemi Berhanu hinted that the tightness in his legs, which had bothered him in the days immediately preceding the race, had vanished. By 38 kilometres he had surged to a lead of more than 15 seconds. But incredibly Rono closed the gap in the final two kilometres to snatch victory.
“I was running at my own pace,” Rono explained. “The pace at the front was really moving so I maintained my own pace. At 38km when he ran away I said ‘let me maintain my pace’. And I knew I could catch him.”
For his part, Berhanu, who was the 2016 Boston champion, complained of a stitch in his right side and was in distress. Disappointment registered on his face at the finish where he sat alone on the ground for 10 minutes before his coach Gemedu Dedefo collected him for the awards ceremony.
“I was thinking when I made the break I could run sub 2:05 and keep pushing, but after 40km I could not really move because of a stitch,” he explained.
Felix Chemonges took four minutes off his personal best to break 2012 Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich’s Ugandan record with his 2:05:12.
The women’s race was equally compelling as eight women ran together through 30km. Five survived Birktuyat Eshetu’s surges up until 35km including Kenya’s Betsy Saina, Rachel Mutgaa and Masai-Robertson and then the race blew up. The latter took off, fearful of being caught. At 40km she spared a look over her shoulder and realised her nearest pursuer was Eshetu and quite a distance separated them.
“After 39km I moved and I didn’t realise there was nobody behind me until 40km,” she revealed. “Yes, exactly, I was running scared. You don’t want to give it all out and then have someone passing you with a couple of hundred metres to go. After 40km I checked behind. I thought ‘I can hold this’.”
Eshetu admitted she vomited from the effort at 38km but by the finish she was all smiles.
“This year it was a very competitive race for the women. I think at 38km she got away. I went from third to second place at 40km,” she said. “It is a personal best so I am very happy. I was expecting to be top three and I thought I would run 2:23 but I ran 2:22:40, a PB.”
Saina, who suffered food poisoning a week ago which led to her abandoning the Chicago Marathon at halfway, was also rewarded with a personal best.
This year’s Toronto Marathon served as the Canadian Championships and Olympic trials race and both the men’s and women’s champions achieved the qualifying standards with performances that were totally unexpected.
Trevor Hofbauer of Calgary won the men’s national title with 2:09:51, knocking almost seven minutes off his best, while Vancouver’s Dayna Pidhoresky recorded 2:29:03, a six-minute personal best to win the women’s title. Cam Levins, who smashed Jerome Drayton’s 43-year-old Canadian record with his debut of 2:09:25 a year ago, was unable to stay with Hofbauer and eventually finished as the third Canadian in 2:15:01.
Paul Gains for the IAAF
More records in Lisbon
Perfect weather conditions resulted in three course records from the two IAAF Label road races in the Portuguese capital on Sunday (20) with Andualem Shiferaw winning the EDP Lisbon Marathon in 2:06:00 while Titus Ekiru and Peres Jepchirchir won the Luso Lisbon Half Marathon in 1:00:10 and 1:06:54 respectively.
Pacemakers ensured the elite men were on course record schedule from the early stages. Five men – Stephen Chemlany, Samuel Wanjiku, Barnabas Kiptum, Birhan Nebebew and Andualem Shiferaw – were still in contention as the lead pack approached the final five kilometres.
It was only in the last two kilometres that Shiferaw and Wanjiku, the 2014 winner and former course record-holder, made a break. With a strong sprint, Shiferaw managed to edge ahead of Wanjiku to win in 2:06.00, taking 94 seconds off the course record and more than two minutes from his PB.
“I didn’t expect or plan to win today, especially after the rain fall on Saturday – that worried me,” said Shiferaw. “But today I felt very good and after the half-way point I felt I could contend for the win. The personal best is a bonus.”
Wanjiku finished just one second behind Shiferaw and was extremely happy with his personal best, while Chelmany finished third in 2:06:22, also a PB. Kiptum (2:06:32) and Nebebew (2:06:49) also finished inside 2:07 with PB performances and were well inside the previous course record of 2:07:34.
In the women’s race, Ethiopia’s Sechale Dalasa win in 2:29:51, a few minutes outside her PB but enough to finish six seconds ahead of Kenya’s Helen Jepkurgat. Ethiopia’s Sule Utura was third (2:32:16).
Two more records came in the half marathon, held in a different part of the city.
Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir and Vivian Kiplagat were involved in a great sprint to the finish line in the women’s race. Jepchirchir, the 2016 world half marathon champion, got there first in 1:06.54, taking 24 seconds off the course record set last year.
“This was a good day,” said Jepchirchir. “I expected to produce a good time, and I’m happy with this win.”
Kiplagat finished just one second adrift in 1:06:55 with Dorcas Kimeli further back in third, clocking 1:07:43. Yebrgual Melese, who held the course record up until today, was fourth in 1:09:02. Catarina Ribeiro was the first Portuguese athlete to finish, placing seventh in 1:11:36, just outside her PB.
Kenya’s Titus Ekiru ran alone for the final few kilometres of the men’s race and took one second off the course record to win in 1:00:12.
“I intended to run faster, but without more opposition it was impossible,” said Ekiru after taking 50 seconds off his PB. “Of course I’m happy with this spectacular race, with my win and the good weather.”
Uganda’s Timothy Toroitich finished second in 1:00:53, also a PB, with Thomas Ayeko placing third in 1:00:56.
António Manuel Fernandes for the IAAF