The 11th Xiamen International Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label race, was run in perfect conditions on Saturday morning as Negari Terfa set a course record in the men’s race while Fatuma Sado made it an Ethiopian double by winning the women’s race.
A temperature of 13°C greeted the runners starting their race at 8am in the Fujian province city. There was almost no wind and the course, which is held in the picturesque city located close to Taiwan, is very flat and ensures best possible possibilities for a fast race.
Course record under threat from the outset
In the men’s race it was clear from the start that the course record of 2:07:37, set by Kenyan Peter Kamais last year, was in jeopardy. Kamais was part of the leading group reaching 5km in 15:24 with fellow Kenyan Dickson Chumba and South African Gladwin Mzazi as the early frontmen. Approaching 8km the leading group had 16 athletes and they passed through 10km in 30:01 – right on schedule to break the course record.
There was very little movement in the group in the next 10km with the leaders going through half way in 63:35, but by the time of the 25km marker (reached in 1:16:00), there were 11 athletes left at the front. One kilometre after going through the 30km checkpoint in 1:31:15, Dickson Chumba made the first significant move of the race and quickly left the others behind. But that was short-lived and just two kilometres later he was caught, quickly fading behind the seven leaders.
Kenyans Kamais, Jairus Chanchima, Paul Lonyangat and Solomon Bushendich and Ethiopian trio Terfa, Sahle Warga and Gebretsadik Adhana passed 34km together, but now with a clear change in the pace. With Kamais and Terfa positioned well, it was clear at this point that something was going to happen. 20-year-old Lonyangat, running his début marathon, broke away from the group with only Terfa being able to follow. The 2010 World Junior Championships 10,000m bronze medallist kept his small lead for almost a full kilometre before the Ethiopian caught him.
Terfa was a surprise leader as he hadn’t broken 2:11 since 2010 and his personal best of 2:07:41 dated back to Berlin 2009. He had twice finished second in Xiamen, clocking 2:09:01 in 2009 and 2:09:40 in 2010, while in the past two years he finished eighth, making the 2013 Xiamen Marathon his fifth successive start here
Lonyangat, who at this point was comfortably ahead of Warga, tried another move precisely one kilometre after Terfa had caught his first break (at 36.6 km). After catching Terfa, for a moment it looked as though the debutant would be taking the win as the Ethiopian looked to be suffering a bit, but then just before the 40km mark Terfa suddenly caught and passed Lonyongat, this time for good.
In the final straight of a few kilometres long, Terfa quickly had a clear lead of 10-15m and went on to win in a 2:07:32 personal best and course record, also the third fastest time in China behind the top two 2008 Olympics finishers (Samuel Wanjiru, 2:06:32, and Jaouad Gharib, 2:07:16) and faster than the Beijing International Marathon course record (2:07:35 from 1986/1988).
Three out of Terfa’s four fastest career results have now been set in Xiamen while this was his fifth sub-2:10 marathon during his career. Lonyangat held on to the second place, finishing his first marathon in a good 2:07:44, while Warga was third in a 2:08:39 PB followed by countryman Adhana, who clocked 2:09:00 for fourth. Last year’s winner Kamais was fifth in 2:09:53, the third best result of his career.
Comfortable win for Sado
The women’s race was very different as there were only a few elite athletes in the race. The lead group was down to three athletes after just 7km. Kenya’s Eunice Jepkirui, the athlete with the fastest personal best in the race (2:21:41 2012), and Ethiopian duo Fatuma Sado and Eyerusalem Kuma were the three runners fighting for the win.
By the 16 km point Kuma had been dropped and there were only two athletes left. The one and only move in the race was made at 28km with Sado changing the pace and quickly opening up a gap out front, leaving Jepkirui behind.
Little happened after this point as Sado notched up her third marathon victory in 2:27:35. She finished more than two minutes ahead of Jepkirui, who was timed at exactly 2:30:00 for second. Kuma was third in 2:34:31, while Wang Xueqin was the top Chinese finisher in fourth with 2:34:56.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF
1 Negari Terfa (ETH) 2:07:32
2 Paul Lonyangat (KEN) 2:07:44
3 Sahle Warga (ETH) 2:08:39
4 Gebretsadik Adhana (ETH) 2:09:00
5 Peter Kamais (KEN) 2:09:53
6 Solomon Bushendich (KEN) 2:10:18
7 Mariko Kiplagat (KEN) 2:10:28
8 Jairus Chanchima (KEN) 2:10:37
1 Fatuma Sado (ETH) 2:27:35
2 Eunice Jepkirui (KEN) 2:30:00
3 Eyerusalem Kuma (ETH) 2:34:31
4 Wang Xueqin (CHN) 2:34:56
5 Worknesh Tola (ETH) 2:37:49