Letebrhan Haylay Gebreslasea winning the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon (© Organisers)
Running under tough conditions at the Yellow River Estuary International Marathon, Ethiopia’s Letebrhan Haylay Gebreslase improved the women’s course record by more than three minutes at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race in the Chinese city of Dongying on Sunday (7).
It was the 26-year-old’s first appearance in Dongying, where in the past runners have often been hampered by sunny weather and high temperatures. But with the temperature rising to 25C during the race, the well-prepared Haylay showed solid form and remained in the leading group to hit the 10-kilometre mark in 34:48, 15km in 51:45, 20km in 1:09:08 and 25km in 1:26:08.
After passing the 30km mark, the leaders were trimmed to only two runners, with Kenya’s Chemtai Rionotukei, who finished fifth in the U20 race at the 2004 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, following closely behind Haylay.
Haylay soon managed to seize a sole lead and kept extending her advantage until crossing the finish line in 2:25:01, knocking 23 seconds from her previous personal best clocked two years ago in Prague where she finished second.
She also improved the course record of 2:28:27 set by compatriot Mestawet Tufa in 2014 by 3:26.
It is Haylay’s third marathon win, following victories last year in Hong Kong and Rotterdam respectively.
The 31-year-old Rionotukei, winner of 2016 Dongguan Marathon, also beat the previous course record to finish second in 2:26:30, bettering her PB by more than eight minutes.
The 36-year-old Georgina Rono of Kenya, who is the quickest entrant in the women’s race with a PB of 2:21:39 set at the 2012 Frankfurt Marathon, finished third in 2:28:52, her best result since 2015.
Unlike the one-sided women’s race, the men’s race in Dongying was decided in the last 100 meters. Ethiopia’s Husen Muhammedahin Esmael rallied to beat defending champion Dickson Kipsang Tuwei right in front of the finish line in 2:14:19.
The pace of the men’s race was relatively slow with a leading group of about 20 runners passing 10km in 31:30 and 20km in 1:04:04.
Only nine runners were left in the lead pack as they passed 35km and after a series of speed changes that came to nothing, Kenya’s Tuwei pulled away and took the pacing position for the first time with two kilometres to go.
The 24-year-old had adopted the same strategy last year in Dongying when he charged ahead for the win in the last two kilometres, edging compatriot Marius Kimutai by five seconds to set a course record of 2:09:27, the first sub-2:10 mark ever achieved in Dongying.
However, this time Tuwei underestimated some of his opponents.
As Tuwei led with a 30-metre margin, a chasing pack consisting of Esmael, Ethiopia’s Dadi Yami Gemeda and Kenya’s Julius Rotich closed on in the last kilometre.
Tuwei managed to hold off the powerful charge from Gemeda and Rotich but was unable to stop Esmael from turning the tables. The defending champion had to settle for second place and finished three seconds in arrears of Esmael, who won in 2:14:19 to take 30 seconds off his PB. It was Esmael’s fifth marathon to date and his first victory.
As the fastest man in the field with a PB of 2:05:41 from the 2012 Dubai marathon, 35-year-old Gemeda finished third in 2:14:23, one second ahead of Rotich, in what was his first marathon since 2016.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF