The 23rd Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon in Pyongyong, North Korea, featured the first European win since 1986 in this Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race.
In the men’s race Africans and home runners were surprised by Ukranian Ivan Babaryka, who was not thought to be part of the winning battle in the race. The Ukrainian won his first prominent marathon in a 2:13:56 personal best, cutting 59 seconds off his previous best.
In the women’s race the winner of last two editios, Pyo Un Suk, did not run and again it was a race where foreigners had no say. In the end 24-year-old Kim Kum Ok scored her first win in this marathon with her fourth try in a fast 2:27:34. This was Kim’s second best marathon of her career and just 38 seconds short of 2:26:56 personal best she ran in the same competition in 2007.
The men’s race started with two-time winner (2007/2008) Pak Song Chol quickly disappearing from the others to a big lead. The 25-year-old, who competed in both the Beijing Olympics 2008 and the Berlin World Championships in 2009, reached 5km in 15:22 with the main group already 28 seconds behind. Several home runners with Babaryka, Brighton Chipere of Zimbabwe and Kenyans Meshack Kirwa and Philemon Rotich were among the followers. Pak, who has a personal best 2:12:41 winning here in 2007, still accelerated clocking 15:41 for the next 10km, again gaining more than 10 seconds to the others. He maintained his pace well clocking 46:48 for 15km and 62:24 for 20km leading by a commanding 55 seconds at this stage.
The main group reached 20km in 1:03:19 consisting of five runners: Babaryka, Ri Yong Ho, Chipere, Kirwa and South African Coolboy Ngamole. After this the group minus Ri, who started to fall back, made their move cutting 12 seconds off the margin before 25km. Just before 30km Babaryka started to pull away from the others trying to catch Pak and had cut the margin to 40 seconds at 30km which Pak reached in 1:34:17. The next 5Km was crucial as Babaryka was able to move much closer and was just 11 seconds behind the North Korean after 35Km. At 40Km the two were together before the Ukrainian finally pulled away for a clear win in 2:13:56 with Pak clocking 2:14:09 for the second, his fastest time since 2007.
This was the first time a European has won this marathon since 1986 when Russian (then Soviet) Sergey Krestyaninov won in 2:14:19. Babaryka, 27, only completed his fifth marathon and had previously ran twice in Mainz, Germany, and twice in Moscow, Russia. Pak Song Chol scored his third podium finish here clocking 2:14:09, his second best career time. Ri Yong Ho, who had been dropped off the leading pack after 20km, finished strong to clock a personal best 2:16:31, also his first ever sub-2:20 time. Brighton Chipere of Zimbabwe was fourth in 2:17:46 and Kenyan Meshack Kirwa fifth in 2:17:58.
In the women’s race North Koreans continued in their winning ways as they have done since 1986 when Romanian Elena Murgoci was crowned the last foreign winner. The race this time was a clear one with two runners breaking away from the others immediately from the start of the race.
29-year-old Jong Yong Ok, two time winner of this race in 2001/2007 and Kim Kum Ok, who had finished second in 2007 and 2009, left the others behind and Kim was leading at 5km in 16:52 with Jong in second place 17 seconds behind. The duo continued quite evenly until 20km where Kim had a 24-second lead with 69:03 against Jong’s 69:27. Three others Jon Kyong Hui, Kim Chol Sun and Cha Jong Ok were in third place with 71:04 and clearly out of the fight for the first place.
The next 5km decided the fate of this race as Kim dropped Jong way back. Kim’s 17:24 5Km was considerably faster than Jong’s 18:13 and the next 5Km confirmed Kim’s win as she added another 58 seconds to the gap. Kim finished fast too gaining ground throughout the rest of the race to record the fastest time in this race since 2007, 2:27:34. Jong Yong Ok was a clear second in 2:30:53 and Jon Kyung Hui came home third in 2:33:59. Kim Chol Sun clocked 2:34:03 for the fourth place and Cha Jong Ok was fifth in 2:34:39.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF
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