Ethiopian marathon runner Bekelech Gudeta (© Organisers)
Ethiopian duo Asefa Boki Kebebe and Bekelech Gudeta were victorious at the C&D Xiamen Marathon on Sunday (7), winning the World Athletics Platinum Label road race in 2:06:46 and 2:22:54 respectively.
Kebebe upset a quality field that contained three sub-2:05 runners, outracing Kenya’s Felix Kirwa in the final seven kilometres to take the men’s title, falling just 27 seconds shy of the course record.
A leading group of more than 10 runners passed through 10km in 29:28 and 15km in 44:20. After the leaders hit the 20km mark in 59:08, defending champion Philimon Kiptoo Kipchumba and fellow Kenyan Kibiwott Kandie, the fastest entrant with a personal best of 2:04:48, both withdrew.
The pace decreased slightly after 20km but the leading group continued to shrink. At 25km there were only five runners left in the leading pack: Kebebe, Kirwa, Solomon Kirwa Yego of Kenya, Ethiopai’s Adane Kebede Gebre and Moroccan record-holder Othmane El Goumri.
Gebre dropped out of contention just before 30km, which the leaders reached in 1:29:13. After another kilometre, 31-year-old El Goumri tried to make a move. Although the Moroccan’s attempt went in vain, Yego failed to keep up. After the leading trio hit 35km in 1:44:43, El Goumri gradually faded away as well.
Kirwa stayed in the pole position as Kebebe followed closely behind. Kebede’s patience paid off as the Ethiopian made a decisive surge in the final kilometre to pass Kirwa, notching his third marathon title in China following victories in Changchun and Tianjin last year.
Kirwa – who has marathon titles in Yichang, Stockholm, Macao, Singapore and Antwerp – took second place in 2:06:52. El Goumri finished third in 2:07:18.
Like Kebebe, 26-year-old Gudeta also emerged victorious from a stacked field, but her victory was more comfortable.
An Ethiopian trio of Gudeta, Aberu Ayana Mulisa and Ftaw Zeray led the women’s race to 15km in 55:09 with the closest chaser, Morocco’s world bronze medallist Fatima Ezzahra Gardadi, lagging more than 40 seconds behind.
Zeray soon fell behind before the leading duo passed 20km and Mulisa, who achieved her PB of 2:21:54 last year in Seville, also failed to keep up with Gudeta near the halfway point.
Gudeta continued to extend her lead and went on to win in 2:22:54, shaving two seconds from the PB she set when winning in Prague two years ago.
Gardadi finished second in 2:24:12 taking almost a minute off her PB in what was her second race in Xiamen in five weeks following a 1:11:14 victory at the Xiamen Half Marathon.
China’s Zhang Deshun was third in 2:26:53.
Vincent Wu for World Athletics