Peter Kamais of Kenya and Ethiopian Ashu Kasim cruised to victory at the Xiamen International Marathon on Saturday, the first IAAF Gold Label Road Race of 2012.
The 10th edition of the race was run in good conditions for a Marathon under cloudy skies and a temperature of 14 degrees Celsius with a 2.5 m/s wind. The marathon that was inaugurated in 2003 has become one of the biggest of what is now quite a vast offering of international Marathons in China.
This year the Marathon had again attracted a very strong men’s field and with good conditions it was always clear that the 2:08:07 course record set by Kenyan Robert Kipchumba last year was under threat. The 27-year-old defending champion was one of the favourites this year too and was seen in the lead group from the start. A slowish start leading to a 30:41 10Km split with 25-year-old Kenyan Dickson Chumba always very close to the lead position turned to a faster race quickly. Chumba, running just his fifth Marathon, lead the front pack to a 46:30 15Km after a much faster 5Km and at 16.5Km there were 10 men left in the leading group. Chumba, with one big win in Rome 2011 under his belt, continued in the lead followed by countrymen Peter Kamais, Albert Matebor, Kipchumba, Marathon debutant Michael Tiony and Ethiopian Solomon Tsege.
Little seemed to change for a long while with Chumba in the lead through 20Km in 1:01:15, but then things started happening with the Kenyan stepping up with the pace reaching 22Km in 1:06:44 and 23Km in 1:09:41. This changed the race a lot, dropping two men off the group after 23.5Km and more seemed to be dropping off just moments later. But the pace steadied and all eight were still in contention with Chumba leading the way to the Yanwu Bridge to reach 30Km in 1:30:45.
But just 800m after this point the Kenyan, who had run a 2:07:23 in Frankfurt two months ago, kicked big time and this was too much for most of the runners as only Solomon Tsege was able to follow. The 31Km split was 1:33:48 with the duo about 10 metres ahead of Kamais and Kipchumba, but 500 metres later Kamais was back behind Tsege with 2011 winner Kipchumba falling back quickly.
Just another 500m after this Tsege was dropped off the leading group with Kenyans Kamais and Chumba now chasing the win together passing 32Km in 1:36:39. Tsege was quickly chased down by Kipchumba and they started to run together at this point. After passing 35Km in 1:45:33 Chumba tried another move leaving Kamais back momentarily, but at 36.5Km the veteran Kamais, 35 years old and only running his fourth Marathon, was back right behind his compatriot. The 37Km split was 1:51:55 and 200 metres after this it was Kamais’ turn to take the lead. Chumba tried to hold on, but had to surrender at 38.5km with Kamais pulling away and at 39Km Chumba was already 50m off Kamais.
The rest was easy for Kamais, who lowered his personal best significantly to 2:07:37 setting a course record as well. His previous best had been 2:09:50 from the strongly aided Boston Marathon.
Chumba finished second in 2:08:19 and Ethiopian Tsege was third in 2:08:59, a personal best and his first time under 2 hours and 10 minutes. Kenyan Vincent Kiplagat was fourth in 2:09:29 missing his PB by just seven seconds while Tiony reached a fine 2:09:44 in his debut for fifth. Last year’s winner Kipchumba was sixth in 2:09:45 this time.
Nearly three minute PB for Kasim - women's race
The women’s race was much more uneventful partly thanks to the fact that the best Chinese did not run the race after all. Only one considerable Chinese name was running - 25-year-old Wang Jiali who was the early leader. The Hebei athlete, who placed eighth at the Daegu World Championships Marathon, started with a fast pace on par for a 2:22 finish time. But Wang, whose personal best is 2:26:12 from last season, could not stand the pace even until half way after leading at 11Km in 36:58 and 12.5Km in 42:15.
The leaders through Half Marathon were the Ethiopian due Merima Hasen and Ashu Kasim. Hasen lead to a 23Km split 1:16:46 with Kasim close behind. The race was quite open at this stage with both athletes running as favourites, but the deciding move came relatively early with Kasim moving to a lead she would not surrender.
Kasim had a small chance of beating Zhang Yingying’s course record 2:22:38 from 2008. Passing 40Km in 2:15:34 it was clear Kasim would fall a bit short, but the 27-year-old did get her big win, the second Marathon win following a 2010 Istanbul title, with a big personal best 2:23:09 too. She lowered her previous best of 2:25:49 from Paris 2009 by almost three minutes.
Kenyan Miriam Wangari passed the fading Hasen to finish second in 2:31:30 before Hasen’s 2:31:46.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF
Ed. Note: Times quoted in the report are chip times. The gun times are in the official results which can be downloaded here.