Britain’s Jessica Piasecki recorded the second-fastest time in the history of the Asics Firenze Marathon, winning the World Athletics Bronze Label road race in 2:25:29 on her debut at the distance on Sunday (24).
Ethiopia’s Nigussie Sahlesilassie Bekele took the honours in the men’s race with 2:10:14, just four seconds shy of the PB he set earlier this year.
A leading group formed by Piasecki, Kenya’s Salina Jebet, Viola Yator Jelagat, Ethiopia’s Mekash Dinknesh Tefera, Amelework Bosho Fikadu, and Burundi’s Elvanie Nimbona went through 15km in 52:34.
Tefera, the fastest runner in the field with a 2:23:12 PB from a few years ago, went to the front and reached the halfway mark in 1:14:31, closely followed by Piasecki, Yator and Jebet. Tefera and Piasecki then broke away, clocking 1:27:55 at 25km with a 14-second margin over Yator.
Piasecki launched her attack soon after, opening up an eight-second gap on Tefera by 35km, reached in 2:01:38.
The 29-year-old continued to ramp up the pace and by 40km her lead had grown to more than a minute. She crossed the finish line in 2:25:29 to move to third on the British all-time list. Only Lonah Salpeter, who won here in 2:24:17 last year, has recorded a faster time on this course. Tefera finished second with 2:26:47 ahead of Salina Jebet (2:30:28).
“The course was quite twisty, but it was an amazing race,” said Piasecki, the 2012 European U23 cross-country champion. “It was the first marathon race of my career and I achieved my goal of getting the Olympic qualifying standard for Tokyo. I can’t believe it.”
Her next goal is the 2020 London Marathon in April, which will double as the British trials for the Olympic Games.
A six-man group formed by Kenyans Kipkemoi Kiprono, Jackson Rutto Kemboi, Peter Kirui Cheruiyot, 2014 Florence winner Asbel Kipsang and Ethiopians Nigussie Sahlesilassie Bekele and Azmeraw Gereme Mengistu took the early lead, going through 10km in 30:15, 15km in 45:24, half way in 1:04:28 and 30km in 1:32:00.
Bekele stepped up the pace and broke away from Mengistu, going through the 35km mark in 1:47:18 with a lead of 24 seconds. Kipsang was further back in third place.
Bekele crossed the finish line in 2:10:14, missing his career best by just four seconds. It was his third consecutive 2:10 clocking of the year, having set PBs of 2:10:46 in Wuxi in March and 2:10:10 when winning in Stockholm in June.
“After 30km I tried to step up the pace,” said the winner. “I saw that my rivals were not able to keep up with my pace. I held on until the end.”
Diego Sampaolo for World Athletics