Road runners in action (© Getty Images)
Local runner Liu Ruihuan cut more than two minutes off her personal best to take the women’s title while Ethiopian teenager Kelkile Gezahegn Woldaregay had a surprise win in the men’s race at the 2016 Chongqing International Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (20).
The 23-year-old Liu, fourth in Chongqing last year, pulled away from the rest of the leading group just after the 30km mark before taking a convincing victory in 2:26:13.
“My coach asked me to stay steady in the race so I just followed my own rhythm. After 30km, I think most of us were quite tired but I kept pushing myself and sped up; that was the turning point of the race,” said Liu, whose previous best was 2:28:35, set in the 2015 Hengshui Marathon
The race on Chongqing’s slightly undulating course was also used as China’s Olympic trial so Liu also managed to earn a berth on the Rio 2016 Olympics Game team.
“After two unsuccessful World Championships trials, this race really means a lot to me,” added Liu. “It will be my first time to compete in the Olympics and my goal is to get into the top eight and hopefully to improve my PB again in Rio.”
The 22-year-old Hua Shaoqing, also from China, beat her PB of 2:30:58 to take the second place in 2:29:15 while former Beijing and XIamen marathon winner Zhang Yingying, the fastest woman on paper with a best of 2:22:38, came home 40 seconds later to complete a clean sweep of the podium for China.
However, the defending champion Ding Changqin, who set her PB of 2:26:54 in last year’s race was forced to drop out.
Although the organisers had assembled eight sub-2:10 runners, the men’s record of 2:10:33 set by Kenya’s Cosmas Kemboi in 2012 still remains although Woldaregaywent close when winning in in 2:10:54.
The 19-year-old Woldaregay hit the 10km mark in 30:47 as part of the leading pack, which then passed 15km in 46:32, 20km in 1:02:04, 25km in 1:18:00, and 30km in 1:33:24.
After the 35km mark, China’s Dong Guojian went to the front. But Woldaregay, the winner of 2015 Taizhou Marathon in 2:14:47, rallied to pass Dong after 38 kilometres and never looked back.
The 29-year-old Dong, 54th at the London 2012 Olympic Games, shattered his six-year-old best of 2:13:23 to finish second in 2:11:42.
“Competing at Rio Olympic Games has always been a motivation to me. I am in a very good form and I like the course and the weather today,” said Dong. “After 35km I felt quite relaxed so I tried to pace the race but, all in all, I am quite satisfied with my performance today.”
Kenya’s Julius Muriuki Wahome, clocked 2:12:05 to take the third place.
The race had relatively comfortable weather conditions with the highest temperature being 18 degrees Celsius but the course, which runs along the Changjiang River was little bit slippy after some overnight rain.
An estimated 7000 runners competed in the marathon races while another 17,000 participated in the associated half marathon and 5km fun run races.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF