Road runner in action (© Getty Images)
Ethiopia’s Meseret Legese and Kennedy Cheboror of Kenya took the women’s and men’s titles respectively at the Chongqing International Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race on Sunday (25).
The 30-year-old Legese led a four-woman leading group in the first 15 kilometres and enjoyed a comfortable sole lead in the final stages of the race after passing the 30-kilometre mark in 1:45:48, 35 kilometres in 2:03:29 and 40 kilometres in 2:21:22.
She broke the tape in style in 2:28:55, although the winning mark is more than six minutes shy of the course record of 2:22:41, set by Chinese Wang Jiali in 2012.
It was Legese’s third marathon victory in China. The Ethiopian has competed in China each year since 2011 and set her personal best of 2:25:43 when winning the 2016 Wuhan Marathon before claiming the title at the Hengshui Lake International Marathon in the same year.
Almaz Negede, also from Ethiopia, cut more than three-and-a-half minutes off her career best to take second place in 2:30:31. The 31-year-old also has extensive experience running in China. Her previous PB of 2:34:09 was set from her second-place finish at the 2015 Taiyuan International Marathon and last November she took another second place at the Hefei Marathon in central China.
Like the women’s contest, the men’s race was also won with a dominant performance.
Cheboror upset a quality field that included several sub-2:10 runners to achieve his first career win over 26.2 miles. His winning time of 2:13:41 is 3:20 shy of the personal best he set in Brescia 12 months ago, but today’s race was held in humid and foggy weather conditions.
A group of 12 paced the race to the five-kilometre water tables. After they passed 10km in 32:22, the leading pack started to shrink with only nine athletes left at the 12-kilometre mark.
The nine leaders, including Ethiopia’s defending champion Afewerk Mesfin who holds the course record of 2:09:49 from last year, remained together for 20 kilometres. They all seemed reluctant to waste energy on early charges with only Ethiopian veteran Regasa Bejiga trying to pull away after midway but only seeing his effort come to nothing.
After hitting the 30-kilometre mark in 1:45:48, the patient Cheboror began to make his move. He broke away from the other eight to seize the sole lead and kept pushing on until the finish.
Ethiopia’s Abayneh Ayele, the fourth-place finisher at the 2016 World Half Marathon Championship and who boasts a PB of 2:06:45 from the 2016 Dubai Marathon, wasn’t quite at his best and had to settle for second place in 2:14:12.
The 37-year-old Bejiga held off Kenya’s Paul Waweru Chege in the last 100 meters to secure a spot on the podium. He lagged 54 seconds behind Ayele to finished third in 2:15:06.
With China’s marathon qualification event for the 2018 Asian Games held on the same day in Xuzhou, most elite Chinese runners chose to skip the race in Chongqing, but a local runner still managed to earn a podium finish.
He Yinli came home as a remote third-place finisher in 2:35:01. It is the third time for the 30-year-old to compete in Chongqing and her second time to on the podium. Three years ago she registered a lifetime best of 2:27:35 to finish second, but in 2016 she finished a distant 14th.
The Chongqing International Marathon has this year been upgraded to an IAAF Gold Label road race. About 10,000 runners took part in the marathon races and some 20,000 participated in the spin-off half marathon, 5km fun run and family run races.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF