NAIROBI, Kenya- Kenya, arch rivals Ethiopia and United States shared the medals at international distance running showdowns spread across the streets of Barcelona, Lisbon and Rome on Sunday.
Anthony Maritim and Ruth Chebitok scored a double victory for Kenya at the Zurich Marató de Barcelona, an IAAF Bronze Label road race and despite strong winds that impacted the race, the top three finishers in each notched career bests.
In Portugal and still battling high winds, Kenyan Erick Kiptanui and Etagegn Woldu of Ethiopia prevailed in the men and women races at the EDP Lisbon Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label event.
Elsewhere, Olympic marathon bronze medallist Galen Rupp won the 44th edition of the Huawei Roma Ostia Half Marathon (IAAF Gold Label) where he led three Kenyans across the line.
“Today was my sixth ever marathon effort and my first time competing in Spain and I can’t ask for more with a win and a massive PB. The second part of the race is particularly fast,” Maritim told the IAAF after leading a Kenyan podium shut out.
In Barcelona the half way point of the men’s race was reached in 1:04:21 where no fewer than 15 men still remained in the leading pack, among them, Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Kebede and Tariku Kinfu plus Maritim who seemed to run effortlessly waiting to make their move over the second half.
Like a Swiss clock, the pacesetters maintained their pace unchanged through 25 kilometres which was covered in 1:25:56. Just before 30 (1:31:02), the main group was whittled down to six: the Kenyan trio of Maritim, Silas Too and Hillary Kipsambu plus the Ethiopians Kebede, Kinfu and Abeg Tsedat Ayana.
Once the pacesetters completed their duties, it was Maritim who injected a lethal sub-3:00 per kilometre pace to run the following five kilometre section in 14:52 to reduce the lead group to four as Kebede and Ayana could not live with that speed.
Maritim’s front-running kept on paying dividends as he broke away easily 38 kilometres into the race to build a handsome margin of 15 seconds by kilometre 40 –2:00:57 to Too’s 2:01:12– while Kipsambu ran another seven seconds behind.
Maritim was the clear winner at the tape in 2:08:08 while Too came runner-up in 2:08:25 with Kipsambu completing a clean podium sweep for Kenya in 2:08:52 with the trio improving their career bests by over a minute.
Finally, the Ethiopian trio of Kinfu, Kebede and Ayana crossed the line together in 2:09:25 while Chesum had to settle for a 2:17:39 clocking on this occasion.
The key move in the corresponding race came shortly after the 35 kilometre point when Chebitok heated up the pace to kill the race thanks to a 16:58 five-kilometre stretch to build a clear advantage of no less than 53 seconds on Ethiopian Tsegaye Belaynesh Beyene with some two kilometres remaining.
Chebitok was an overwhelming victor thanks to a 2:25:49 clocking to Tsegaye’s 2:27:06. Worknesh Alemu took the minor place on the podium in 2:28:19, her first ever effort under the 2:30 barrier for the Ethiopian 2-3.
“I’m both surprised and satisfied with my outcome. I consider myself a half marathon specialist but after such a positive experience like today’s I’m sure I’ll tackle the marathon more times. I might have run even faster today but my pacesetter Tom Payn suffered an injury by halfway; anyway, I completed a great run,” Chebitok remarked. Both winners managed negative splits over the two halves (1:04:21/1:03:47 for Maritim, 1:13:00/1:12:49 by Chebitok.
In the men’s race of the Lisbon Half Kiptanui upped the tempo to build a small lead and the challengers tried to make up ground at different points in the waning different stages, but they couldn’t catch the Kenyan who closed with a 2:47 final kilometre en route to 1:00:05 victory in his debut over the distance.
“I’m really happy with this result and I must thank the organisation for inviting me and trusting that I can run at this level. I think I could have achieved a better result if there were no strong wind.
“In future races I believe I can run under one hour, and of course, if I return to Lisbon I’m sure I will run faster than today, because this is a great course,” the unheralded winner whose biggest career win came at the San Silverstre 10km in Madrid last New Year’s Eve noted.
Behind him, Eritrean Yohanes Gebregergish was next in 1:00:16, a personal best, for second. Kenyan Morris Gachaga was third in 1:00:17, also a personal best ahead of countryman Nicholas Kosimbei, also making his debut, in fourth (1:00:21).
World record holder and three time Lisbon Half champion, Zersenay Tadese (1:00:29) of Eritrea was forced down to sixth.
In the women’s event, which started 15 minutes before the men’s, also had seven women in contention through the first 17 kilometres in the front. Woldu then took the lead, upped the tempo and ran to a 1:11:27 win, improving her personal best by three minutes.
Belainesh Oljira followed in 1:11:29 with Helen Bekele Tola, the fourth place finisher at September’s Berlin Marathon, third in 1:11:33 to round out the podium for Ethiopia. Mimi Belete of Bahrain was fourth in 1:11:38 with Kenyan Magdalyne Masai fifth in 1:11:49 to repeat her position from last year.
American Rupp showed Kenyans a clean pair of heels when he ran a commanding race to beat Moses Kemei by 57 seconds. Justus Kangogo, who finished runner-up in last year’s edition in his personal best of 59:31, reached the podium for the second consecutive year in 1:01:02. Another Kenyan, Emmanuel Kipsang, completed the top-four crossing the finish line in 1:01:33.
Ethiopian Haftamenesh Haylu Tesfay took the honours in the women’s race in 1:09:02 beating her compatriot Dera Dida by 19 seconds. Kenyan Rebecca Chesir took third in 1:11:04 improving on her fourth place in last year’s edition.
At 14 kilometres, Kemei and Rupp broke away from Kangogo by five seconds and reached the 15 kilometres in 42:44. A kilometre later, Rupp had built an eight second lead on Kemei.
Upping the pace, Rupp reaching 18 kilometres in 51:09 and extended his lead over Kemei by 40 seconds with one kilometre to go.
The 31-year-old US long distance star smashed his previous career best time of 1.00:30 set at the New York Half Marathon in 2011 and narrowly missed Ryan Hall’s national record of 59:43.
Rupp became the first non-African winner in the men’s race since 2004 Olympic marathon champion Stefano Baldini took the honours in 1997.
-Material from the IAAF used to compile this report. Read more on international athletics here
LISBON HALF MARATHON
- Erick Kiptanui, KEN, 1:00:05
- Yohanes Gebregergish, ERI, 1:00:16
- Morris Munene Gachaga, KEN, 1:00:17
- Nicholas Kosimbei, KEN, 1:00:21
- Atsedu Tsegay, ETH, 1:00:28
- Zersenay Tadese, ERI, 1:00:29
- Alexander Mutiso, KEN, 1:00:31
- James Wangari, KEN, 1:00:49
- Noah Kipkemboi, KEN, 1:00:52
- Birhan Nebebew, ETH, 1:00:53
- Kipkemoi Kiprono, KEN, 1:00:56
- Edwin Kibet Koech, KEN, 1:00:57
- Etagegn Woldu, ETH, 1:11:27
- Belainesh Oljira, ETH, 1:11:29
- Helen Bekele Tola, ETH, 1:11:33
- Mimi Belete, BRN, 1:11:38
- Magdalyne Masai, KEN, 1:11:49
- Sofyia Shemsu, ETH, 1:11:50
- Hiwot Ayalew, ETH, 1:11:56
- Pasalia Chepkorir Kipkoech, KEN, 1:13:24
- Kellys Arias, COL, 1:15:27
- Filomena Costa, POR, 1:16:43
ROMA OSTIA HALF
- Galen Rupp (USA) 59:47
- Moses Kemei (Kenya) 1:00:44
- Justus Kangogo (Kenya) 1:01:02
- Emmanuel Kipsang (Kenya) 1:01:33
- Felicien Muhitira (Rwanda) 1:02:05
- Haftamenesh Tesfay Haylu (Ethiopia) 1:09:02
- Dera Dida (Ethiopia) 1:09:21
- Rebecca Chesir (Kenya) 1:11:04
- Amane Shankule Beriso (Ethiopia) 1:12:08
- Jelela Koren Yal (Ethiopia) 1:13:30
ZURICH BARCELONA MARATHON
- Anthony Maritim (KEN) 2:08:08
- Silas Too (KEN) 2:08:25
- Hillay Kipchumba (KEN) 2:08:52
- Tariku Kinfu (ETH) 2:09:25
- Tsegaye Kebede (ETH) 2:09:25
- Abeg Tsedat Ayana (ETH) 2:09:25
- Benson Seurei (BRN) 2:11:27
- Hiluf Tsegay (ETH) 2:12:30
- Reuben Lemaa (KEN ) 2:13:02
- Alemu Gemechu (ETH) 2:14:31
- Ruth Chebitok (KEN) 2:25:49
- Tsegaye Belaynesh Beyene (ETH) 2:27:06
- Worknesh Alemu (ETH) 2:28:19
- Alemitu Begna (ETH) 2:30:54
- Lucy Ndungo Wanjiku (KEN) 2:35:42