Zeineba Yimer wins the women's race at the Ethiopian Half Marathon Championships (© Abiy Wendifraw)
Double Ethiopian cross-country champion Getaneh Molla and teenager Zeineba Yimer took impressive wins at the 11th Ethiopian Half Marathon Championships in Legetafo, about 10 kilometres east of the capital Addis Ababa, on Sunday (28).
The event, which served as the official trial race for the IAAF/Trinidad Alfonso World Half Marathon Championships Valencia 2018 in March, drew a competitive field of cross-country and road runners hoping for a place on Ethiopia’s competitive team as they aim to take advantage of a year in which the World Cross Country Championships will not take place.
Following his win at the Safi Half Marathon in Morocco three weeks ago, Molla was the overwhelming favourite for the men’s title. The 22-year-old lived up to expectations with an impressive victory to complete a unique 5000m, cross country and half marathon domestic treble within the space of a year.
After a tepid start, the men’s race was dispersed after five kilometres when just eight runners stayed in contention at the head of the pack. The group stayed together until the final kilometre when Molla, Betesfa Getahun and Dawit Fekadu opened up a significant lead over the chasing pack.
The three-way contest ended when Molla produced a strong finish in the final 400 metres to take victory in 1:01:25, one of the fastest times recorded for a half marathon in Ethiopia. Getahun finished eight seconds behind to take the runner-up spot while Fekadu was even further back in third, clocking 1:01:44.
“The weather was very good,” said Molla. “The topography was a bit challenging with some uphill and downhill [sections]. But I was very relaxed in the last two kilometres.”
Yimer’s patience pays off
From a large group at the start of the women’s race, a pack of 15 runners remained in contention after five kilometres.
This group, led by Etaferahu Wedajo and with Meseret Belete and Bekelech Gudeta in close attendance, dwindled down at the 10-kilometre mark with national junior cross-country silver medallist Zeineba Yimer tucking behind the leaders.
The 2017 Great Ethiopian Run 10km winner did not show any interest in hitting the front until the leaders started to tire at about 17 kilometres. Three minutes later, she pushed harder on the uphill part of the course and took a slight lead against the resilient Belete.
Belete continued to lead as Yimer kept running economically before storming ahead in the final kilometre. Belete’s effort to hang on, however, was in vain as Yimer overtook her rival in the final stretch to take victory in a PB of 1:10:24 ahead of Belete with Gudeta coming home in third.
“The opponents were very tough,” said Yimer, the 10th-place finisher in the junior race at last year’s World Cross Country Championships, who won the Egmond Aan Zee Half Marathon two weeks ago. “I am glad I won here.”
Elshadai Negash (with assistance from Abiy Wendifraw) for the IAAF
1 Getaneh Molla 1:01:25
2 Betesfa Getahun 1:01:33
3 Dawit Fekadu 1:01:44
4 Jiksa Tadesse 1:02:13
5 Ayitolegn Kasew 1:02:17
6 Assefa Tefera 1:02:39
1 Zeineba Yimer 1:10:24
2 Meseret Belete 1:10:35
3 Bekelech Gudeta 1:11:19
4 Zinash Mekonnen 1:11:27
5 Yeshi Kalayu 1:11:32
6 Etaferahu Wedajo 1:11:39