Beating windy conditions, Ethiopia’s Meselech Melkamu and Tesfaye Abera emerged victorious at the Haspa Marathon Hamburg on Sunday (17).
Melkamu clocked 2:21:54 to win the women’s title, slicing more than two minutes from the course record. On the men’s side, Abera clocked 2:06:58 for his second marathon victory of the year after winning in Dubai in January with a world-leading 2:04:23 run.
Both were hoping to make strong cases for selection to the Ethiopian marathon squad for this summer’s Olympic Games.
In the women’s contest, fellow Ethiopian and defending champion Meseret Hailu was second in 2:26:26 while Germany’s Anja Scherl finished a surprise third in 2:27:50, an improvement of more than eight minutes that should secure her Olympic selection.
Kenyans Philemon Rono and Josphat Kiprono followed Abera across the line, clocking 2:07:20 and 2:10:44 respectively.
Fast from the outset
From the outset, Melkamu dictated the pace together with Hailu with Kenyan Sarah Chepchirchir pressing at their heels. That scenario came to an end just before 20km when Melkamu broke away in a style that reminded onlookers of her finest track performances.
She went through half way in 1:11:04, and despite a strong headwind during the latter stages, Melkamu maintained her pace to keep her pursuers at bay.
“I think that without the wind I could have run under 2:20 today because it’s a fast course,” said Melkamu, who set the African record in the 10,000m, 29:53.80, in 2009. Melkamu eclipsed the 2:24:12 course record set by compatriot Netsanet Abeyo in 2012.
“This was one of the best performances of my career," added Melkamu, whose personal best of 2:21:01 dates back to her debut over the distance in 2012. "I hope it will be enough to win Olympic selection.”
Winds foil course record assault
Early on, it appeared that the 2:05:30 course record set by Eliud Kipchoge three years ago was under threat. That was the indication anyway when the leaders ran through 15km in 44:17, on target for a sub-2:05. They had a supporting wind then, which managed to take back in the second half what it had given in the first.
Half way was reached in 1:02:49 with 10 men still in contention, a number that was cut in half by 30km.
Soon after, the field was further reduced to just the 1.92m-tall Abera and the diminutive Rono. After an earlier move that Rono matched, Abera finally pulled away for good just before 40km to win by nearly three minutes.
“It was a good race for me,” Abera said. “We ran in a big group and worked well together which led to very fast splits at the beginning. When I led later on, the wind was very strong.”
As to his Olympic team selection chances, Abera said: “What is important is that when the selectors decide, I am still the fastest Ethiopian.”
Organisers for the IAAF