Morocco’s Salah-Eddine Bounasr took his first marathon victory at the Guangzhou Marathon, while Aynalem Kassahun of Ethiopia claimed a convincing victory at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race on Sunday (11).
The men’s race witnessed a thrilling three-man contest in the final kilometre. Bounasr, Kenya’s Ezekiel Omullo and Alemayehu Belachew of Ethiopia pulled away to pace the race after 37 kilometres. The trio remained almost level for another four kilometres until the 26-year-old Bounasr started to speed up.
Belachew was the first to drop back. In the final 100 metres, Bounasr held off a strong challenge from Omullo – who set a PB of 2:08:55 when winning the Warsaw Marathon in September – and powered ahead to win in 2:11:09.
Bounasr stretched his arms and roared loudly in celebration before breaking the tape. And after crossing the finish line, the emotional Moroccan knelt down to kiss the ground and burst into tears.
It was Bounasr’s first triumph in a marathon, having made his debut at the distance earlier this year with a 2:11:53 clocking in Wuhan. But his winning mark is still nearly two minutes shy of the 2:10:01 course record set last year by his compatriot Abdellah Tagharrafet.
Omullo, who just celebrated his 29th birthday on Saturday, trailed Bounasr by two seconds to finish second. The 31-year-old Belachew, who improved his PB to 2:09:49 this season, took third place in 2:11:16.
In the women’s race, former champion and course record-holder Mulu Seboka was upset by her compatriot Kassahun, who enjoyed a comfortable lead in the final kilometres and clocked a winning time of 2:31:52.
Seboka, 26, was the fastest woman on the entry list, having set a PB of 2:21:56 last year when finishing sixth in Dubai, but was not at her best on Sunday and managed 2:32:26 to finish as the runner-up.
However, her course record of 2:26:46, which was set at the inaugural edition of the race back in 2012 and has stood ever since, remained intact.
An Ethiopian quartet that included Seboka, Kassahun, Halima Hassen Beriso and Zewdnesh Ayele led the race through 10km in 36:54. The pack was trimmed to three runners at 15km in 53:39 as Ayele was left behind, and then just two remained at 25km in 1:16:43 after Beriso also dropped back.
Seboka and Kassahun led together for another few kilometres before the highly favoured Seboka slowed down.
Kassahun, meanwhile, kept extending her advantage. Although she looked back from time to time to check how far away her opponents were, the in-form Ethiopian met no further challenge before hitting the finish line.
Morocco’s 34-year-old Soud Kanbouchia rallied to finish a distant third in 2:36:23 on her marathon debut.
Established in 2012, this is the first year that the event has been an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race. The round-way course alongside the Pearl River attracted a total of 11,000 runners and 19,000 more to compete in the spin-off half marathon and 5km events.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF