Road runners in action (© Getty Images)
Korea’s Kim Mi Gyong delighted the 100,000 fans that had packed the May Day Stadium on Sunday morning (14) in Pyongyang for the 26th Mangyong Prize Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, as she triumphed in the women’s race, while Ethiopia’s Ketema Nigusse was the top man.
The race had the usual mixture of the best home athletes and foreign runners, with some that had competed in previous editions of this Marathon. The men’s race had last year’s top four returning to the 2013 edition and these runners were in the mix from the start.
The race, which was run under sunny skies and strong winds, started with a moderate pace as the leading athletes reached 5km in just under 16 minutes with a couple of Korean runners in the front with the pacemakers.
Last year’s runner-up, Pak Song Chol, and Ri Yong Ho were the home duo giving early hope for a long-sought domestic win in the men’s race. 10km was passed in 31:35 with still more than 10 runners in the leading pack and there were no big changes before 20km, which was reached in 1:03:13.
The leaders were still together at 30km (1:35:07), but the first move in the race came quite quickly after this point. 32-year-old Ethiopian Ketema Nigusse, a former winner of the Great Ethiopian Run, broke away from the leading group, quickly surging to a 12-second lead at the 35km point ahead of defending champion Oleksandr Matviychuk of Ukraine.
Nigusse kept his lead, snatching the win in a PB of 2:13:04. Matviychuk was second in 2:13:15, the second-best result during his career behind last year’s winning time 2:12:54, while Jean-Pierre Mvuyekure of Rwanda was third in 2:13:19. Pak Song Chol was the best runner from the host country in fourth place, clocking 2:13:24.
Kim Mi Gyong smashes through 2:30 barrier
The women’s race was a different one where Ethiopian runner Meseret Mengistu blasted to a huge lead from the start with a serious world-class time in her sights. The 23-year-old came to the race with a personal best of just 2:30:45, but after the first 5km (17:13) she had a lead of 50 seconds.
Mengitsu, the sixth-place finisher at the 2010 World Half Marathon Championships, was followed by Ukrainian Olha Kotovska and four Korean runners – defending champion Kim Mi Gyong, Kim Hye Song, Jon Kyung Hui and Han Kum Son.
Mengistu still had a big lead after 10km (34:29), but Kotovska had now been dropped as a the trio of top Koreans were 44 seconds behind the Ethiopian. Although she still held the lead after 15km (52:07) and 20km (1:09:55), Kim Mi Gyong, Kim Hye Song and Ro Un Ok were quickly making up ground on Mengitsu.
The deciding moment came around the half-way mark, where Kim Mi Gyong moved into the lead, followed by Kim Hye Gyong and Mengitsu.
Kim Mi Gyong continued to extend her lead to the finish, winning her second straight title by exactly two minutes. She smashed her PB by more than four minutes, clocking 2:26:32 to go to third on the Korean all-time list.
National junior record-holder Kim Hye Song, competing in her first race as a senior, set a PB of 2:28:32 to finish as runner-up for the second year running. Mengistu didn’t quite get the victory she was after, but could gain some consolation with her first sub-2:30 result in 2:29:22 to finish third.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF