Haile Tolossa after winning the Riga Marathon (© Organisers)
For the first time in the 25-year history of the Lattelecom Riga Marathon, Ethiopia won both the men’s and the women’s races at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race on Sunday (17).
And, for the third year in succession, the course record was broken in the men’s race by more than a minute.
In a race where three men ran well inside the previous course record, Haile Tolossa triumphed with a PB of 2:12:29 to record the fastest marathon ever on Latvian soil.
Compatriot Meseret Eshetu dominated the women’s race, winning by more than five minutes in 2:37:04 to narrowly miss the course record by 13 seconds.
On a cool and wet morning, the lead group in the men’s race set out at a decent pace as 10 runners went through 5km in 15:41 and were still together at 10km, reached in 31:16.
It soon became clear that a finish time of about 2:12 was possible and that the course record of 2:13:44, set last year by Japan’s Yu Chiba, was under threat.
The lead pack went through 15km in 47:06, by which point Japan’s Yudai Yamakawa had become the first casualty to leave just nine men out in front.
By half way, which was reached in 1:05:50, a break-away pack comprising Tolossa, Mariko Kipchumba, Abraraw Tegene, Beyene Effa and 2013 winner Duncan Koech had forged a few seconds ahead.
Kipchumba was the next to suffer and by 35km he was already 30 seconds behind the four men who remained out in front.
Koech then began to drift back, followed by Tegene, while Tolossa was making a break for home up ahead. He was away and clear at 40km and continued to increase his lead to the finish, winning in 2:12:29.
Effa held on for second place in 2:12:52, also a PB, while Koech passed a fading Tegene to make it on to the podium, clocking 2:12:43. Despite running faster in Riga with each of his three appearances in Riga, this was Koech’s lowest finish in the Latvian capital, having won in 2013 and finished second in 2014.
Tegene finished fourth in 2:13:51, comfortably ahead of Kipchumba. In sixth, Valerijs Zolnerovics narrowly missed his own Latvian record by just seven seconds, clocking 2:14:40.
Eshetu leaves behind challengers
By contrast to the men’s race, the first half of the women’s contest was between just two runners while the second half turned into a solo run.
Meseret Eshetu and Vicoty Chepkemoi made an early break, passing through 5km in 17:30 and 10km in an ambition 34:54, suggesting a finishing time much faster than 2:30.
Although the duo continued to lead, their pace was starting to slow and they went through 15km in 53:00 before reaching the half-way point in 1:15:05, still well inside course record pace.
But soon after, Chepkemoi began to fade, leading Eshetu alone out in front. She hit 30km in 1:48:26 and 35km in 2:08:06, now comfortably ahead of her opponents. Although her pace was slipping in the closing stages, she was too far ahead to be caught and crossed the finish line in 2:37:04.
It was her third marathon of the year and second successive victory over the classic distance, having won in Annecy last month in 2:36:00.
There was a close battle for the other podium positions. Ethiopia’s Workenesh Tola and Kenya’s Ruth Wanjiru had been running side by side for the majority of the race. Having long passed the fading Chepkemoi, it was only in the final two kilometres that Tola began to pull away, eventually taking second place in 2:42:07.
Wanjiru finished 22 seconds adrift of Tola with Russia’s Natalia Volgina a few minutes further behind in fourth. Chepkemoi finished fifth, crossing the line almost 10 minutes after the winner with whom she had run stride for stride over the first half.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
1 Haile Tolossa (ETH) 2:12:29
2 Beyene Effa (ETH) 2:12:52
3 Duncan Koech (KEN) 2:12:53
4 Abraraw Tegene (ETH) 2:13:51
5 Mariko Kipchumba (KEN) 2:14:38
1 Meseret Eshetu (ETH) 2:37:04
2 Workenesh Tola (ETH) 2:42:07
3 Ruth Wanjiru (KEN) 2:42:29
4 Natalia Volgina (RUS) 2:45:26
5 Vicoty Chepkemoi (KEN) 2:46:56