Diana Chemtai Kipyokei wins the Istanbul Marathon (© Organisers)
Diana Chemtai Kipyokei and fellow Kenyan Bernard Sang took the top honours at the Istanbul Marathon on Sunday (8), winning the World Athletics Gold Label road race in 2:22:06 and 2:11:49 respectively.
Organisers had put several measures in place for this year’s race to ensure the safety of all runners. The start and finish area was moved to a massive open space to ensure a safe distance between the runners both before and after the race. The mass element was also separated from the elite race with groups of four runners starting every five seconds.
The change in course meant that this year, instead of starting on the Asian side of the city and finishing on the European side, runners crossed the Bosphorus Bridge from Europe to Asia and then back again.
It also meant that many athletes, Kipyokei and Sang included, ran negative splits as the first half of the adapted course was more challenging than the second.
Kipyokei was part of a six-person group during the early stages, going through 10km in 34:10 alongside Ethiopia’s Hiwot Gebrekidan, Tigist Memuye, Ftaw Zeray and Yeshi Kalayu Chekole.
Memuye fell out of the lead pack soon after, leaving four women to reach the half-way point in 1:11:42. Chekole and Zeray were next to fade, but Kipyokei and Gebrekidan continued running together for another 17 kilometres.
Kipyokei pulled ahead of Gebrekidan in the closing stages and opened up a margin of more than two minutes, eventually winning in 2:22:06. Her time takes one second off the PB she set on her debut over the distance in Ljubljana last year. Despite the route being much tougher than the standard course, Kipyokei’s time is the second-fastest clocking ever recorded in Istanbul behind the 2:18:55 course record set by world champion Ruth Chepngetich in 2018.
Gebrekidan finished second in 2:24:30 with Memuye taking third in 2:37:52.
The men’s race played out in similar fashion with a steady start turning into a race of attrition with just three athletes left in contention in the final few kilometres.
A pack of nine men – including Sang, Kimutai, Zewdu and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Edwin Soi, who was making his marathon debut – went through 10km in 31:47 and half way in 1:07:15. The group reduced to seven men at 25km and six at 30km, reached in 1:34:32.
Soi was the next athlete to fade, leaving Sang, Kimutai, Zewdu, Tsegaye Getachew and Cosmas Birech in the lead pack. Getachew and Birech were unable to maintain the pace to the end, though, as Sang, Kimutai and Zewdu battled it out for the victory.
Sang, who had won the Izmire Marathon just five weeks ago, proved to be strongest in the closing stages and kicked ahead to win in a PB of 2:11:49. Kimutai was second in 2:12:00 with Zewdu taking third place in 2:12:23. Further back, Soi held on to finish sixth in 2:14:52.
1 Bernard Sang (KEN) 2:11:49
2 Felix Kimutai (KEN) 2:12:00
3 Hailu Zewdu (ETH) 2:12:23
4 Tsegaye Getachew (ETH) 2:13:54
5 Cosmas Birech (KEN) 2:14:18
6 Edwin Soi (KEN) 2:14:52
1 Diana Chemtai Kipyokei (KEN) 2:22:06
2 Hiwot Gebrekidan (ETH) 2:24:30
3 Tigist Memuye (ETH) 2:37:52
4 Ftaw Zeray (ETH) 2:39:18
5 Yeshi Kalayu Chekole (ETH) 2:40:26
6 Erdal Tubay (TUR) 2:41:11