Unseasonable temperatures which soared to 36 degrees C destroyed any chance of fast times in the Amman International Marathon on Saturday 17 October which was won by David Kiptum in a pedestrian 2:20:48.
Ethiopia’s Tadelech Telila won the women’s race in 2:51:39.
Having attracted a dozen international athletes initial talk of a scorching pace were quickly exchanged for a scorching race when the thermometer climbed to 29 degrees by the start from the Municipality Building in downtown Amman. The day proved to be a far cry from the expected 8 degree overnight and 20 degree high.
Girma Beyene and Kiptum, both of whom have 2:12 marathon PB’s, were prominent in the lead group of six which included Ethiopian pacemakers Gizaw Bekele and Desalegn Tegegn.
Bekele clung to a three minute ten second per kilometre pace to take the race through 33km in one hour 49 minutes before withdrawing. The group immediately lost its previous rhythm as Kiptum moved ahead of Beyene to take the lead at the 36km turn point. It was immediately clear that the race was not about pulling away, but rather about who could lose the least momentum.
Despite a dramatic drop in pace 41-year-old Kiptum had a 60 metre advantage over Beyene by 38 kilometres and extended this to 250 metres after completing the final six kilometres of the slow poison climb to the finish next to the historic Roman amphitheatre at Al Hashimiah square. Kiptum's 2:20:48 victory being followed home by Beyene's 2:21:39 for second place.
“The course is much faster than today’s times, but it was survival in this heat,” said Kiptum, “We tried to go for 2:14 but there was nothing left with 10 to go. In cool weather it would be even faster (than 2:14).”
Morrocan-born Italian Said Boudalia, who has yet to convert the potential of his track times into the marathon, maintained form to secure the final podium position in exactly 2:23:00.
The heat which for the majority of the race had settled around 35 to 36 degree’s saw only the top six finishers cross the line under two hours 30 minutes.
Although the elite pack held together for the initial ten kilometres, the energy sapping heat saw the Ethiopian trio of Tadelech Telila, Alemtsehay Hailu and Etaferahu Getahun on their own through to 15 kilometres. Telila was unchallenged over the next 27km with Kenyan Lilian Chelimo gaining third position when Hailu withdrew shortly before 34 kilometres.
A drained Telila crossed the line in 2:51:39, fully 20 minutes off her PB, and almost three minutes clear of Getahun. Chelimo was the final runner in the women’s field to get under three hours recording 2:57: 53 for third place.
“It was great to win, but the heat was unbearable. The start has to be earlier in these conditions. This (heat) killed the time incentives, it was just impossible to maintain any pace,” said Telila.
The extraordinary conditions converted Coventry based Joice Kirui from a 72 minute half marathoner to a three hour 20 minute marathon finish for fifth place, only 20 seconds adrift from Ethiopian Gashaw Mencho.
The marathon which was held to celebrate ten years of King Abdullah the Second’s reign and the centenary of Amman Municipality will be an annual event and attracted over 11,000 runners across the 42km, 10km and 4km events, continuing the running boom trend taking off in the Middle East.
The Amman event highlighted the attraction of the sport across the population with Princess Dina Mired participating in the 10km and Prince Firas Raad completing his debut marathon despite the heat in just over six hours.
Norrie Williamson for the IAAF
1 David KIPTUM KEN 2:20:48
2 Gezahagn Girma BEYENE ETH 2:21:39
3 Said BOUDALIA ITA 2:21:58
4 Joseph KEINO KEN 2:23:00
5 Mohammed TEMAN ETH 2:26:36
6 Motqal Abu DREES JOR 2:27:18
7 Issac Kipkemboi BIWOTT KEN 2:31:42
8 Michael CHELIMO KEN 2:31:57
1 Tadelech TELILA ETH 2:51:39
2 Etaferahu GETAHUN ETH 2:54:19
3 Lilian CHELIMO KEN 2:57:53
4 Habtamnesh Gashaw MENCHO ETH 3:20:33
5 Joyce Chepngeno Kirui KEN 3:20:57.