Artur Kozlowski winning at the 2016 Orlen Warsaw Marathon (© 2016 Orlen Warsaw Marathon)
The fourth edition of Orlen Warsaw Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, saw a welcome surprise as local athlete Artur Kozlowski won the men’s race in 2:11:54 while Ethiopia’s Kumesci Sichala took the women’s title in 2:28:43 on Sunday (24).
On a cool and cloudy Sunday morning in the Polish capital, the men’s race started at a steady pace, with the 5km mark reached in 15:23.
Apart from two pacemakers, the leading group at this point was comprised of eight men, including the main favourites: Ethiopia’s Negari Terfa and Habtamu Assefa, Kenya’s Charles Munyeki, Uganda’s Moses Kibet and Polish record holder Henryk Szost.
As the pace quickened over the next few kilometres, by the time 10km was reached in 30:25 the leading group was down to six, with one of the dropped runners being the pre-race favourite Terfa.
The pace remained consistent, with splits of 46:30 at 15 km, 1:00:47 at 20 km and 1:04:06 at halfway, and the group was reduced by only one more one runner, the recent winner of the Debno marathon, Kenya’s Cosmas Kyeva.
After passing 25km in 1:16:20 into the race, no further changes occurred at the front, except for the dropping out of pacemaker Dmytro Baranovskyy.
However, with the competitors now left on their own, the pace slowed to 16:21 over the next 5km section, although the distance also soon started to take its toll and one by one runners started to lose contact with the leaders. Of the men left at the front, Kibet was the first to go, followed by Kenya’s Isaac Langat just before the 30km mark.
By 32km, Assefa had to yield as well as three men were now left at the front: Szost, Munyeki and Eritrea’s Mulue Andom; with Szost doing most of the leading, but without doing much damage to his Africans rivals.
The pace continued to slow, with 16:34 for the leaders over the next 5km, but behind them Kozlowski, who started the race running in the second group and was well over a minute behind the leaders at 25km, started to reel in the leading trio.
He was still 49 seconds behind at 30km but he cut the gap to 22 seconds at 35km and caught the leaders just after the 37km mark.
Not content with staying with the group, Kozlowski went straight to the front and immediately started to pull away.
Within only a few hundred metres, his lead became significant, and it just kept on growing.
By the 40km mark, Kozlowski’s advantage was exactly 30 seconds as behind him, a battle was for what was now second place was in full swing.
First, Andom lost touch two kilometres before the finish and then Szost slowly started to pull away from Munyeki as Kozlowski was pushing the pace as hard as he could, hoping to achieve the national Olympic standard.
After Kozlowski broke the tape in 2:11:54, Szost made it a Polish one-two, reaching the finish line 46 seconds behind his compatriot in 2:12:40 with Munyeki another 17 seconds behind, and Andom 13 seconds further back.
Sichala surpisingly the strongest
Ethiopia’s Kumesci Sichala came through over the closing kilometers to take the win in a new personal best of 2:28:43, beating the pre-race favourite Peninah Arusei of Kenya by 38 seconds. The Belorussian Maryna Damantsevich was a distant third with 2:32:12.
In the women’s race, an all-African leading group of four runners emerged early in the race.
At 5km, these four – Kenya’s Peninah Arusei and Winnie Jepkorir plus Ethiopia’s Alem Fikre and Kumesci Sichala – were together in 17:43, with only Zivile Balciunaite of Lithuania close to them.
Like the men, the women got quicker as the race continued, getting to the 10km mark in 35:13, with the four Africans still together and Balciunaite 15 seconds behind.
Fikre was the first of the four to get dropped but the remaining three runners continued increasing the pace with 52:28 at 15km as Balciunaite drifted back.
The leaders passed halfway in 1:13:41, a full minute ahead of their nearest follower, Maryna Damantsevich of Belarus.
The leaders reached 25km in 1:27:23 but soon after the group was cut to two as Jepkorir fell behind and started to struggle.
By the time Arusei and Sichala reached 35km in 2:03:18, the pair were more than two minutes ahead of Jepkorir; with Damantsevich still in fourth, but closing in on the Kenyan.
Contrary to what might have been expected from pre-race form and credentials, it was Sichala who proved stronger of the two.
She broke away around three kilometres from the end and was eight seconds ahead at 40 km and increased her advantage over the final couple of kilometres.
Her winning time of 2:28:43 was an improvement of over two minutes on her previous best.
Arusei was the clear second in 2:29:21 as Damantsevich came in a distant third place in 2:32:12.
With over 8000 participants at the classic distance this was the largest edition of the Orlen Warsaw Marathon to date.
Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF