Tamirat Tola wins the world marathon title in a championship record in Oregon (© Getty Images)
Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola, world silver medallist in 2017, is the world marathon champion of 2022 after a masterful and ruthless run at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 saw him come home more than a minute clear in a championship record of 2:05:36 on Sunday (17).
His teammate Mosinet Geremew won a protracted battle for silver, pulling clear of Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Bashir Abdi over the final kilometre to finish in 2:06.44, with the Belgian taking another big bronze in 2:06.48.
Missing the medal podium by one place was the unlikely figure of Canada’s Cameron Levins, who had the consolation of setting a national record of 2:07:09 ahead of Kenya’s three-time world half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor, who clocked 2:07:14.
"It was a dream come true," Tola said. "I learned from my mistake in 2017 (World Championships) and I made sure it did not happen again."
On that occasion, Tola’s attempted run for home 10km from the end was thwarted as Kenya’s Geoffrey Kirui overtook him to win gold. This time there was no faltering on the 30-year-old Ethiopian’s part.
In what was the first event of day three at the championships in Oregon, Tola took more than a minute off the record of 2:06:54 set by Kenya’s Abel Kirui at the 2009 edition in Berlin.
But that was no more than an adornment for him on a day when he ran with apparent certainty from start to finish, never being far from the lead in a race that proceeded without undue vigour towards a halfway time of 64 minutes – comfortable territory for today’s elite marathon runner.
Conditions on a course consisting of three 14km loops running through Eugene and Springfield – home of The Simpsons – were an overcast sky and temperatures rising, not dramatically, from 13C at the starting time of 6:15am.
But there were no big city marathon pacers here. This was a championship race, with all the uncertainty that has traditionally involved. While the first half offered hope of success for many who were among the event's fastest, that hope was suddenly and ineradicably quashed by the eventual winner in the telling final quarter of the race.
Tola shaped what had been a largely inchoate procession of surging and slacking when he took off between the 33rd and 34th kilometres. It was not a drill.
By the 34km marker his lead was seven seconds. At 35km it was 12 seconds, at 36km it was 17 seconds and at 37km it was 26 seconds. With 5km to go, the gold was gone and the drama of the race resided in which of the chasing group of four – Abdi, Geremew, Levins and Kamworor – would share the podium.
Geremew’s big move, when it came with a kilometre remaining, was as decisive as that of his compatriot. Very suddenly he was a silver medallist in waiting and Abdi seemed to be looking back down the field a lot in the closing stages, perhaps seeking his training partner Abdi Nageeye, who had so vigorously encouraged him to keep going in pursuit of a medal in Tokyo last summer.
As it happened, Nageeye was one of eight runners who failed to finish, in company with Ethiopia’s defending champion Lelisa Desisa, who was not thought to be in good form and who confirmed that speculation as he struggled out of contention by the halfway point.
The race had begun with bad news for Japan, whose charismatic national record-holder Kengo Suzuki did not start.
Local hero Galen Rupp, who had run this course innumerable times as a former alumnus of the University of Oregon, was seeking to add another global marathon medal to the bronze he won at the Rio 2016 Games. But after hitting the front briefly at the halfway point, taking the field through 22km in 66:58, he dropped away to finish 19th in 2:09:36.
Mike Rowbottom for World Athletics
|MEN'S MARATHON MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Tamirat Tola 🇪🇹 ETH||2:05:36 CR|
|🥈||Mosinet Geremew 🇪🇹 ETH||2:06:44|
|🥉||Bashir Abdi 🇧🇪 BEL||2:06:48|