Lelisa Desisa and Ruth Chepngetich with their 2019 AIMS best marathon runner awards (© Victah Sailer / AMA)
World marathon champions Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya were tonight recognised as the male and female recipients of the 2019 ‘Best Marathon Runner’ award by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS).
Their achievements were given global recognition on Friday (8) in Athens, the birthplace of the marathon, at the seventh annual AIMS Best Marathon Runner (BMR) Gala.
Desisa and Chepngetich were chosen by the AIMS athletes’ nomination committee as the outstanding candidates for the 2019 awards based upon their performances over the past 12 months.
Desisa won the 2018 New York City Marathon before winning the marathon at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 with a time of 2:10:40. “Thank you to AIMS, their members and partners for presenting me with this award,” he said. “This is a proud moment in my career.”
Chepngetich is also a world marathon champion, winning in Doha with a time of 2:32:43. In the past year she also added wins at the Istanbul Marathon, the Dubai Marathon (in 2:17:08, the second-fastest time of the year), the Istanbul Half Marathon, the Seiryu Half Marathon and the Media Maraton de Bogota.
“I am very happy to receive this award in Athens where the sport of marathon running was born,” she said. “It is a great honour to be recognised in this way.”
Several other awards were presented at the gala. The AIMS Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to journalist Alain Lunzenfichter, the deputy editor of L’Equipe in France between 1975 and 2013 where he covered 17 Olympic Games. He also worked with Canal+ in their coverage of athletics. In 2006 he became president of the World Association of Olympic Journalists until 2014 when he was made honorary president.
The Xiamen Marathon was presented with the AIMS Green Award, becoming the first Chinese race to win the accolade. The race organisers have demonstrated significant effort regarding climate change, waste reduction and environmental awareness. Since 2015, the Xiamen Marathon has donated more than 130,000 saplings to be planted, creating the ‘Xiamen Forest of Love’.
The Harmony Geneva Marathon for Unicef was the 2019 recipient of the AIMS Social Award in recognition of their charitable efforts. Since 2010 the Harmony Geneva Marathon has been in partnership with Unicef, supporting the programme ‘WASH: Water, Sanitation, Hygiene’ and their sustainable development goal of ensuring access to water sanitation for all. To date the race has financed the installation of 1000 water pumps in different countries. From 2020, the event will support UNICEF Malawi to provide solar water pumps – a reliable, sustainable, user friendly and green technology solution for rural communities.
In addition, the race manages a clothes collection point in its marathon village in association with the organisation Bilifou to benefit young people in Burkino Faso. This partnership has seen more than 1000kg of clothes collected. Other activities with disabled people and refugees are managed by the organisation in order to include everyone in the event.