Thanks to a powerful sprint in the final 500 metres, Ethiopia’s Afewerk Mesfin claimed a breathtaking victory with a new course record at the 2017 Chongqing International Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, in the southwestern Chinese city on Sunday (19).
Since its inception in 2011, the Chongqing International Marathon hasn’t witnessed a sub-2:10 result with the course record of 2:10:33 set by Kenya’s Cosmas Kemboi standing since 2012. But the seventh edition of the race saw the top two finishers both dip under that barrier with Mesfin taking the victory in 2:09:49 ahead of runner-up Julius Tuwei of Kenya who clocked 2:09:52.
Running under cloudy and breezing conditions with the temperature remaining around 14 C, the leading group was relatively slow in the first half the race, hitting the five-kilometre mark in 15:55, 10 kilometres in 31:11 and 15 in 46:38.
After passing the 30km mark in 1:31:43, the lead group was trimmed to only four runners including Kenya’s Andrew Kimutai, who entered the race as a pacer and chose to continue running in the front.
The 27-year-old Kimutai tried to pull away at 32 kilometres and only Mesfin managed to keep up. Three kilometres later, Mesfin slowed and was soon caught by Tuwei. But perhaps the pacing in front and frequent speed changes took too much from Kimutai who enjoyed the sole lead for some four kilometres before being surpassed by Mesfin and Tuwei.
The last three kilometers turned out to be a duel between Mesfin and Tuwei. The duo remained shoulder-to-shoulder until the last 500 metres when the 24-year-old Mesfin, who was eighth in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2010 IAAF World Junior Championships, burst out for the final charge.
Before hitting the finish, Mesfin looked back to check Tuwei’s position and saluted to the crowd alongside the course to celebrate his victory.
It is the second marathon title for Mesfin who also won at the La Rochelle Marathon in 2014. The winning mark in Chongqing equaled his personal best of 2:09:49 set on his debut at the distance at the 2013 Dubai Marathon where he finished 14th.
In fact, the top three finishers all beat the previous course record. Tuwei trailed three seconds behind Mesfin to take second, cutting 5:20 off his PB set when winning the 2016 Danzhou Marathon in China’s Hainan Island.
Race pacer Kimutai managed to set his foot on the podium, too. He clocked 2:10:22 to finish third and improved on his PB of 2:12:21 set when finishing seventh in Barcelona last year by nearly two minutes.
Kiyara takes women’s honours
Unlike the thrilling duel in the final stage of the men’s race, the women’s race became a one-runner show in the last ten kilometres. The 32-year-old Rael Nguriatukei Kiyara of Kenya ended a three-year winning streak by Chinese runners and clocked 2:26:22 to add Chongqing to her title collection.
It is the third marathon title harvest by Kiyara in China as she set the course record of 2:31:22 in Lanzhou Marathon in 2015 and went on to win the Shanghai International Marathon in 2:26:23 later that year. The vastly experienced Kenyan has also won races in Madrid, Graz, Padua and Luxembourg.
Although her winning mark is 3:41 shy of the 2:22:41 course record set by China’s Wang Jiali in 2012, it is the second career best achieved by Kiyara, whose PB is 2:25:23 set in 2011 when finishing fourth in Eindhoven.
Kenya’s Anne Bererwe, who holds the course record of Hangzhou Marathon with a winning time of 2:31:21 in 2016, trimmed 64 seconds off her PB to finish second in 2:27:28.
Sheila Jerotich, 27, clocked 2:28:53 in what was her marathon debut to complete a sweep of podium for Kenya.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF