Emane Seifu Hayile on her way to winning in Gqeberha (© Tania Z)
Ethiopia’s Emane Seifu Hayile took almost four minutes off the women-only world 50km record at the Nedbank Runified Breaking Barriers Ultramarathon, clocking 3:00:29* at the World Athletics Elite Label road race in Gqeberha on Sunday (26).
South Africa’s Tete Dijana, meanwhile, won the men’s race in a course record of 2:39:04. His winning time is quicker than the ratified world record of 2:40:13, set last year by Stephen Mokoka, but is just 21 seconds shy of CJ Albertson’s performance from October last year, which is pending ratification.
Hayile maintained a remarkably consistent pace throughout and had a small handful of women for company through the first 10km, covered in 36:09. Compatriots Amelework Fikadu, Tinebeb Nebiyu and Sweden’s Hanna Lindholm stayed with Hayile through 15km (54:16) but Lindholm was the first of those to lose contact with the rest and had dropped behind by 20km.
Hayile and her fellow Ethiopians hit the half-way point in 1:30:28 – just outside the pace required for a sub-three-hour clocking or to challenge the outright world record of 2:59:54, set by Desiree Linden in a mixed race two years ago.
Fikadu was the next to fall behind. Nebiyu stayed with Hayile a bit longer, but she too soon started to fade and was eventually passed by Fikadu and Lindholm.
Hayile, meanwhile, ran on alone and passed through 40km in 2:24:46, by which point she was some 40 seconds clear of her nearest opponent. She went through the marathon checkpoint in 2:32:21 and continued to extend her lead, even picking up the pace slightly towards the end.
Her increase in pace wasn’t enough to finish inside the three-hour barrier, but her winning time of 3:00:29 is still the fastest time in history in a women-only race, breaking Irvette Van Zyl’s mark of 3:04:24 set two years ago.
Fikadu finished second, almost six minutes adrift in 3:06:24, while Lindholm placed third in 3:08:56, passing Nebiyu in the closing stages.
“I am lost for words and don’t know how to describe it,” said the winner. “All in all, it was an exciting event. I’m very happy.”
The men’s race was much closer with the top three finishers separated by one minute.
Tete Dijana ran alongside eventual podium finishers Onalenna Khonkhobe and Tonny Skink, plus Ethiopia’s Gadisa Bekele, through the first half, which they covered in 1:18:32 – almost a minute inside world record pace.
The lead quartet stayed together through 30km and 35km (1:49:40), but Bekele soon started to fade and trailed the other three by more than 30 seconds by the time the 40km marker was reached.
After the lead trio went through the marathon checkpoint in 2:12:37, Skink of Zimbabwe was the next to fade, but only slightly. Khonkobe stuck with fellow South African Dijana through 45km but was unable to last much longer.
Dijana, meanwhile, forged on ahead and reached the finish in 2:39:04. Khonkobe followed in 2:39:41 with Skink taking third place in 2:40:04.
*Subject to the usual ratification procedure