Stephen Mokoka wins the Shanghai Marathon (© Organisers)
Ethiopia’s Roza Dereje and South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka retained their titles at the Shanghai International Marathon in cool conditions on Sunday (12), with Dereje bettering her personal best by more than two-and-a-half minutes at the IAAF Gold Label road race.
A leading group of six runners remained together in the first half of the women’s race. Running side by side with her husband as her pacer, Dereje built up a comfortable sole lead at the 35-kilometre mark and went on to extend her advantage afterwards.
Her husband stopped after 40 kilometres and the in-form Dereje kept pushing until breaking the tape in style with her arms stretching wide open.
She knelt down and kissed the ground right after crossing the line to celebrate her 2:22:43 victory, the second-fastest winning time in the 18-year history of the race following compatriot Tigist Tufa’s course record of 2:21:52 in 2014.
It is Dereje’s second appearance in Shanghai, having won last year in a big PB of 2:26:18. She trimmed her PB to 2:25:17 earlier this year when placing third in Vienna, but a 1:07:23 half marathon PB in Copenhagen in September suggested a further improvement on her marathon best was likely.
“Good training led to the good race today,” said Dereje. “I was running at my own pace and it is very nice to set my best time.”
Kenya’s Lydia Cheromei, who won the 1991 world junior cross-country title and the 2004 world half-marathon silver medal, clocked a world age-40 best of 2:23:31 to take second place. It was her fastest time since 2012, the year in which she set her PB of 2:21:30.
Ethiopia’s Hirut Tibebu trailed four seconds behind Cheromei to finish third in 2:23:35, beating her PB by 29 seconds. It is the 22-year-old’s third PB this year following her 2:25:12 run in Dubai and 2:24:04 finish in Prague.
In the men’s race Mokoka made history by becoming the first four-time winner in Shanghai following his victories in 2013, 2014 and 2016.
The 32-year-old South African, who set a PB of 2:07:40 to finish second in Shanghai in 2015, pulled away from Kenya’s Ernest Kiprono Ngeno in the last kilometre to win in 2:08:35, which was also the second-fastest winning mark in Shanghai following Paul Lonyangata’s course record of 2:07:14 in 2015.
“I am very happy with my performance today,” said Mokoka, who has competed in Shanghai every year since 2011, setting his best time of the season on each occasion. “Thanks to the organisers for inviting me. It is the fourth time for me to win here. I am very thankful.
“During the race I always get encouragement from people alongside the course,” added Mokoka. “They kept saying ‘Jiayou, Jiayou’ (meaning ‘come on’ in Chinese). When they said that, I knew they were encouraging me to push on. I really enjoy such encouragement.”
A group of eight runners paced the race to 30 kilometres in 1:31:04 and when the leaders hit 35 kilometres in 1:46:31, the pack was trimmed to six. Right before the 40-kilometre water station, Mokoka launched a powerful charge trying to break away with only Ngeno managing to keep his pace.
The duo ran together for another one-and-a-half kilometres, continuing to widen the gap between them and the chasers. Once they could see the Shanghai Stadium, in which the finish line lies, Mokoka sped up again and never looked back before wrapping up the victory.
The 22-year-old Ngeno – a former winner in Hengshui, Dongying and Milan with a PB of 2:07:49 when finishing second in Gyeongju last October – finished second in 2:08:38.
Last year’s runner-up Asbel Kipsang of Kenya, also a sub-2:08 runner with a PB of 2:07:30, settled for third place in 2:09:02.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF