Report08 Dec 2019

Weekend road round-up: Gebrekidan and Abraha break course records in Guangzhou, Jepchirchir dominates in Saitama


Ethiopian marathon runner Gebretsadik Abraha (© AFP / Getty Images)

Hiwot Gebrekidan and Gebretsadik Abraha took an Ethiopian double at the Guangzhou Marathon, smashing the course records at the World Athletics Gold Label road race on Sunday (8).

The 24-year-old Gebrekidan enjoyed a comfortable sole lead before 30km and wrapped up her convincing victory with a lifetime best of 2:23:50, smashing the 2:25:12 course record set by compatriot Rahma Tusa in 2017.

Helped by a pacemaker, the women’s race was soon reduced to a duel between Gebrekidan and Kenya’s Celestine Chepchirchir before the 5km water tables. The duo led side-by-side and when they passed 25km in 1:24:38, they were already nearly five minutes ahead of the chasers and well on track to attack the course record.

After a further two kilometres, the in-form Ethiopian broke clear from Chepchirchir and continued widening the gap until the finish.

It is Gebrekidan’s second title over the classic distance following her victory two years ago at Lake Tiberias where she achieved her previous PB of 2:25:45.

The 23-year-old Chepchirchir, who set her PB of 2:24:48 in Seoul nine months ago, finished second in 2:27:10 while local runner Zhang Meixia finished as a remote third finisher with a career-best time of 2:32:01.

The top six finishers in the men’s race all beat the 2:10:01 course record set by Morocco’s Abdellah Tagharrafet in 2015.

The 27-year-old Abraha emerged victorious from a three-man battle in the last 10 kilometres to take the top honours in 2:08:04, which is the fastest time achieved by the former Prague and Marrakesh marathon winner since 2014.

Abraha, whose personal best of 2:06:23 was registered back in 2012, patiently hid himself in a lead pack of more than 10 runners that passed the 10km mark in 30:27 and 15km in 46:03.

The leaders were trimmed to 10 by 25km in 1:16:11 and further cut to six after another five kilometres in 1:31:38. Abraha then started his powerful charge, with only Kenya’s Mike Kiptum and Emmanuel Naibei managing to keep up with his pace by 32km.

The 27-year-old Kiptum, a 2:06:22 performer, quit the title contest before 40km. Abraha waited for another kilometre to finally pull clear and never looked back before hitting home in style.

Naibei knocked nearly two minutes off his PB to take the second place in 2:08:27. Kiptum held off a strong challenge from Chinese runner Dong Guojian in the last kilometre to notch the third place with a margin of just two seconds in 2:08:58.

Vincent Wu for World Athletics

Jepchirchir wins Saitama Marathon in near record time

Breaking away from Fatuma Sado with 10km to go at the Saitama Marathon, Peres Jepchirchir, running her first marathon outside of Kenya, won the World Athletics Silver Label road race in 2:23:50.

The Kenyan’s winning mark was the second fastest time at the Saitama Marathon, just 32 seconds shy of the course record of 2:23:18 from 2016. Jepchirchir, the 2016 world half marathon champion and former world record-holder at the distance, was contesting just the third marathon of her career. Her official best for the marathon was a modest – by her standards – 2:46:15 recorded in Eldoret in 2018.

Peres Jepchirchir on the way to victory at the Usti nad Labem Half Marathon


Two pace makers – Stacey Ndiwa and Perine Nemgampi – pushed the race at course record pace with Jepchirchir, Belaynesh Oljira, Sado and Rahma Tusa in tow. Their pace up to 15km (50:36) was consistent and steady, but it dropped slightly before the half-way point, reached in 1:11:31.

At 29km, Oljira was surprisingly the first of the top contenders to fall off the pace, and with the pacemakers exiting the course at 30km, Sado, Tusa and Jepchirchir formed the lead trio, nine seconds ahead of Oljira.

With Jepchichir forcing the pace, Tusa fell behind at 31km and then Sado did likewise one kilometre later, leaving Jepchirchir out in front alone.

Jepchirchir slowed slightly in the closing stages, but at 40km she had a two-minute lead over Sado. Her margin had grown to almost three minutes by the finish line, which she crossed in 2:23:50.

Sado, who dropped out of last year’s Saitama Marathon before going on to win the Osaka Women’s Marathon one month later, finished second, while Oljira, the fastest woman in the field with a PB of 2:21:53, finished third. Nina Savina of Belarus finished fourth in a PB of 2:28:44, taking 22 seconds off her best set in Warsaw earlier this year.

Kaori Yoshida was the first Japanese finisher, placing sixth. She was aiming to improve on her PB of 2:28:24 and was on pace to do so up until 20km, which she reached in 1:11:13. Her pace dropped in the second half, though, and she fell outside of PB pace, eventually finishing in 2:35:15.

Incidentally, 61-year-old Mariko Yugeta set a world masters’ best for the 60+ age group, clocking 2:56:54. She improved on her previous best – 2:59:15, her first sub-three-hour marathon – recorded last month in Shimonoseki.

Ken Nakamura for World Athletics


1 Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) 2:23:50
2 Fatuma Sado (ETH) 2:26:45
3 Belaynesh Oljira (ETH) 2:27:11
4 Nina Savina (BLR) 2:28:44
5 Rahma Tusa (ETH) 2:32:30
6 Kaori Yoshida (JPN) 2:35:15