Yellow River Estuary Marathon in Dongying, China (© Organisers)
Kenya’s Dickson Kipsang Tuwei took a surprise victory at the 2016 Yellow River Estuary International Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, finishing in 2:09:27 for a personal best and course record in the south Chinese port city of Dongying on Sunday (8).
The 23-year-old Tuwei upset a deep field that included a dozen of sub-2:10:00 runners.
He stayed patiently in the leading group for most of the race and outraced countryman Marius Kimutai in the last kilometre, beating the course record of 2:11:44 set by Kenya’s Isaac Macharia in 2010 and leaving Kimutai five seconds adrift.
It was only the second marathon race run by Tuwei, who has made an unusual leap up in distance.
He won the African junior 800m title in 2009 and finished sixth over two laps of the track at the IAAF World Junior Championships Barcelona 2010.
Prior to this year, Tuwei had not raced internationally over anything longer than 1500m on the track but after a lacklustre 1500m outing in Germany in June 2014, he effectively disappeared off the radar before re-emerging and making his marathon debut four months ago, when he clocked 2:12:29 to finish fourth at the 2016 Hong Kong Marathon on 17 January.
Starting at 07:30 in the morning, the race was staged in relatively cool conditions with the temperature remaining around 17 degrees Celsius.
Kenya’s Ronald Kimeli Kurgat, course record holder of Jerusalem Marathon, paced a leading group of more than ten runners to hit the 10km mark in 30:01, 15km in 45:47 and 20km in 1:00:39 before he slowed down after 25km.
The leading pack still had five men in at the 35km mark before Tuwei and Kimutai pulled away, and duelled almost shoulder-to-shoulder over the last two kilometres.
As the fastest man in the field as well as the owner of the fastest marathon time that ever recorded on Chinese soil, pre-race favourite and last year’s Xiamen Marathon winner Moses Mosop, of Kenya, who has a best of 2:05:03, failed to live up to expectations.
Although he closed on the leading pair late in the race and tried to pass Kimutai in the last two hundred metres, the 30-year-old still had to settle for third in 2:09:33.
Chumba gets first marathon win
Like Tuwei in the men’s race, Bahrain’s Eunice Chumba clinched her win in the last kilometre.
She sliced nearly two minutes off her best to win in 2:31:13.
The 22-year-old Chumba, who will turn 23 in two weeks, stayed in the leading group from the very start of the race, hitting 10km in 36:56 and 15km in 56:51 as part of an eight-woman leading group.
After 20km, the leading group was down to five runners and they went through 25km in 1:30:53 before Ethiopia’s Fantu Eticha Jimma, and Kenya’s Mercy Jemutai were left behind.
After the leading trio stayed together for another seven kilometres, Ethiopia’s Bizuayehu Ehite dropped back.
Kenya’s Mirriam Wangari was Chuma’s last remaining rival but she had to give up her hopes of victory at the race entered its last kilometre and the latter started to pull away.
It was the first marathon victory for Chumba, who started her marathon career in 2012 and who shocked established internationals Ruth Jebet and Mimi Belete to win the senior race at the 2016 Asian Cross Country Championships in Manama in February.
Her last race prior to her outing in Dongying was the Lisbon Half Marathon in March, where she ran a personal best of 1:09:55 to finish fourth, and that run in the Portuguese capital suggests she has the capacity to improve further over the longer classic distance.
The 37-year-old Wangari, who has a PB of 2:27:53, took the second place in 2:31:22 while Ehite, 25 and the winner of the 2015 Venice Marathon, finished third in 2:32:02.
Launched in 2008, this year was the ninth edition of the race and attracted more than 30,000 runners to participate in a variety of races, including 6000 in the marathon alone.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF