Mariko Kipchumba wins the Beijing Marathon (© Li Ming)
Running down the pre-race favourite who is almost half his age, 41-year-old Kenyan veteran Mariko Kiplagat Kipchumba won the 35th edition of Beijing International Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (20), ending a three-year Ethiopian winning streak.
Kipchumba stayed in the leading group from the start of the race and clocked 2:11:00 to reach the finish line first. Although his winning time is five minutes shy of his 2:06:05 PB and more than three minutes outside the course record set two years ago by Ethiopia’s 2013 world bronze medallist Tadese Tola, it was a season’s best for Kipchumba.
Pre-race favourite Berhanu Shiferaw of Ethiopia, the fastest man in the field with a PB of 2:04:48, came home second in 2:11:37, 36 seconds slower than the season’s best he set in Seoul in March.
Zimbabwe’s Wirimai Juwawo, the 15th-place finisher at the 2012 Olympics, finished third in 2:14:25.
The men’s race saw the leading pack reach the 15km mark in 45:00, 25km in 1:16 and 35km in 1:48. As the race went on, the pack kept shrinking.
Shiferaw slowed down after 30km, leaving only Kipchumba and Uganda’s Jackson Kiprop, the 10th-place finisher at the World Championships, out in front.
Before the 35km mark, Shiferaw managed to surpass Kiprop and caught up with the sole leader Kipchumba. The Ethiopian tried to surpass Kipchumba as well but the latter soon pulled away again and never looked back to wrap up the victory.
“It is the first time for me to run the Beijing Marathon, I am very happy to win,” said Kipchumba, who won the 2014 Xiamen Marathon. “I have been preparing for today for nearly all the year. My next goal is to win the Xiamen Marathon next year.”
The race was staged under cloudy conditions with the temperature remaining at about 20C for most of the time.
“I like the weather today as well as the course here,” added Kipchumba. “There was a little bit wind from time to time, and it felt really good.”
The women’s race turned out to be a duel between two Ethiopian runners. Abebech Afework and Betelhem Moges paced the race soon after the start and the 24-year-old Moges, who has a PB of 2:24:29, built up a sole lead in the final 10 kilometres.
She kept extending her advantage during the last few kilometres and took the victory in 2:27:31.
The 24-year-old Afework, who also improved her PB in Dubai this year when finishing ninth in 2:23:33, came home second in 2:29:12.
Sin Yong Sun of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea clocked a PB of 2:31:31 to finish third, beating her previous PB of 2:32:49 set in Pyongyang in April. Starting to compete in marathon races in 2012, Sin finished 17th at the 2013 World Championships but did not run in Beijing last month.
China’s world 20km race walk champion Liu Hong also competed in the marathon, finishing ninth in 2:51:23.
She was keen to stress, though, that her marathon debut isn’t a sign that she is about to switch events. Instead, she was helping raise awareness of the importance of exercising among the public.
“Today I think I experienced what my male team-mates go through when they compete in the 50km race walk,” said the world record-holder. “After 30km I felt really tired and I just told myself to hang on. It was really a challenge for me.
“Before the race I told myself I’d be satisfied if I can finish within 3:20, so I am really happy with my result,” she added. “I can definitely run faster in my next marathon, but not in the near future. Maybe after the Rio Olympics next year.”
Vincent Wu for the IAAF