Azmeraw Bekele and Muluhabt Tsega achieved an Ethiopian double victory at the 31st edition of the Hangzhou Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race on Sunday (5), breaking both course records in the process.
Running under cloudy and cool conditions, the first seven finishers in the women’s race broke the course record of 2:31:21 set by Anne Cheptanui Bererwe of Kenya last year. Tsega enjoyed a comfortable solo lead in the final five kilometres and improved the record by more than three minutes to win with a personal best of 2:28:08.
It is the fourth race of the year for the 28-year-old Tsega. She clocked 2:30:38 to finish eighth in Osaka in January and finished fourth at the Warsaw Marathon in April with a 2:30:16 clocking. Last month she competed in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon but had to withdraw after 20 kilometres due to a stomach problem.
It is also the second marathon title for Tsega. She took the victory at 2014 Beirut Marathon in her marathon debut and set her previous PB of 2:29:12, which has since stood as the course record.
Tinbit Gidey, winner of 2016 Shenzhen Marathon, outraced fellow Ethiopian Tsehay Desalegn in the last kilometre to finish second seven seconds back, trimming 3:12 off her PB set last year when winning the Sanya Marathon title in 2:31:27.
The 26-year-old Desalegn also dipped under the 2:30 barrier for the first time of her career as she clocked 2:28:35 to take the third place, beating her former PB of 2:31:25 set when finishing fourth at the Prague Marathon in 2014.
Pre-race favorite Bekele lived up to expectations to win the men’s title in 2:10:33, breaking the course record of 2:11:22 set by his countryman Bejigan Regasa Mndaye in 2016. It is the first time in the 31-year history of Hangzhou Marathon for both titles to be claimed by Ethiopians.
A leading group of nine runners paced the race to the 10-kilometre mark in 30:56 and 15 kilometres in 46:19. After a series of speed changes from different runners went in vain, the leaders covered the first 25 kilometes in 1:17:47 before the pack started to shrink.
Morocco’s Mousaab Hadout was the first to drop out. Italy’s Yassine Rachik and Ethiopia duo Hailemichael Mekonnen and Andualem Belay were next to drift back. After 35 kilometres only five men remained in the leading group.
After another four kilometers, Kenya’s Samuel Theuri, who has stayed in the front line for most of the race, tried to pull away with only Bekele and Abdi Fufa of Ethiopia managing to keep up. The trio remained together until the last kilometre when Bekele seized the lead and never looked back before breaking the tape in style.
It was the second victory for Bekele in two months, following his 2:12:49 win in Taiyuan in September which was also his first title over the classic distance.
The 33-year-old Theuri finished second in 2:10:36, 1:40 shy of his career best set in Marrakech two years ago. Fufa took 41 seconds of his PB to finish third in 2:10:41.