Kenya's Ezekiel Omullo and Bahrain's Gladys Kibiwot emerged triumpant at the 38th edition of the PZU Warsaw Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (25).
Over 6000 runners took part in this year's event, held in cool and sunny conditions in the Polish city.
In the men's race, Ezekiel Omullo took the best advantage of the excellent weather to score a repeat win in a PB of 2:08:55. An impressive final 10km gave him a winning margin of more than two minutes, with Douglas Chebii and Dominic Kimwetich completing the all-Kenyan podium. Kibiwot, meanwhile, was the women's winner in 2:36:34 after a battle against Ethiopian Tizifa Niguse, with Jane Muia of Kenya taking third.
A leading group of nine, seven of which came from Kenya, formed early on in the men's race. The pack continued at a steady pace, with splits of 15:20 at 5km and 30:37 at 10km.
The pace remained consistent in the next part of the race, but the group was slowly getting reduced. By 15km, reached in 45:53, the fastest man in the field Albert Matebor had already been dropped.
The leaders took 1:04:33 to get to the halfway point, with seven men still bunched together. Shortly thereafter, however, two more men had to yield. One of those was Poland's Jared Shegumo, the European silver medallist from 2014.
Thus, 25 km and 1:16:42 into the race, the leading group was reduced to five: last year's winner Ezekiel Omullo of Kenya, his lesser known compatriots Peter Wanjiru, Douglas Chebii and Sammy Nyokaye, and the sole Ethiopian Tilahun Aleye.
Within the next few kilometres, the race evolved into a three-way all-Kenyan battle for the win. With 1:32:14 at 30 km pointing to a finishing time in the 2:09 range, only Chebii, Nyokaye and Omullo were able to maintain the pace at the front. The next group, comprised of Aleye and Kenya's Dominic Kimwetich, were already 50 seconds in arrears, with Shegumo another 50 seconds back in sixth.
The group continued together for another few minutes, but soon after Omullo decided it was time to put his foot down. And once he did, nobody looked able to do anything to stop him. The 14:56 he ran between 30km and 35km was the fastest split of the race by some way, and it gave him a lead of 33 seconds over Chebii, with Nyokaye 25 seconds further back.
As the men behind him started to suffer, another fast 5km of 15:09 gave Omullu an unassailable lead of 2:19 at 40 km.
Maintaining that pace throughout the final part of the race, Omullu crossed the line on the bank of the Vistula river as the winner in 2:08:55. The time represented a 24-second improvement on the PB he set while winning in Warsaw last year, and was the second-fastest time in Warsaw Marathon's history.
As Chebii and Nyokaye started to tire, the more experienced Kimwetich gained ground on them. With his better pace judgment, he moved up to third place, just eight seconds behind Chebii, at 40km.
In the end, however, it was Chebii who held on to take second. His time of 2:11:26 was a PB by over three minutes. Kimwetich reached the finish 23 seconds later to take third.
Despite a major crisis in the final kilometres, Sammy Nyokaye finished fourth with 2:14:18, although Albert Matebor chased him hard to reach the finish only 10 seconds behind.
Jared Shegumo was the top Polish finisher in sixth with 2:15:05.
Kibiwot shows her class
With defending Warsaw winner Ruth Wanjiru a late withdrawal in the women's race, two athletes ran away from the field early on. Tizifa Niguse of Ethiopia and Gladys Kibiwot of Bahrain were nearly half a minute ahead of their next rival after just 5km of running.
The leading two were steadily extending their lead throughout the opening half of the race. At 10km their split was 34:39 and the lead over marathon debutante Jane Muia grew to 76 seconds. By the time the leaders reached halfway in 1:13:54, the two leaders were nearly three minutes ahead of Muia.
The pace started to drop in the second half, but the situation at the front remained unchanged as Niguse and Kibiwot reached 30km in 1:46:20. Then, just like the men's race, there was a breakaway before the 35km point.
While both women at the front started to suffer the effects of the pace, it looked like Niguse had more strength left. The Ethiopian ran away from her rival and reached the 35km already with a 32-second lead.
But this was not the end of the story. After building the lead, Niguse started to lose it just as rapidly. Just before the 40km point, the lead changed hands. At the final split it was Kibiwot who led in 2:26:57 by 12 seconds.
From then on, the lead continued growing and Kibiwot reached the finish in 2:36:34, a full 57 seconds before Niguse. Despite the significant slowing in the second half, both runners set personal bests.
Kenya's Jane Muio significantly reduced the gap to the top two in the final kilometers, but still ended up well behind in third place with 2:39:11.
Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF