Ethiopian distance runner Kelkile Gezahegn (Organisers) © Copyright
Report Lanzhou, China

Gezahegn retains title while Mohammed wins in close finish in Lanzhou

Ethiopia’s Kelkile Gezahegn successfully defended his title at the Lanzhou Marathon, while Bahrain’s Merima Mohammed won the women’s contest by a narrow margin at the IAAF Gold Label road race on Sunday (10).

The race is held on a flat course along the Yellow River, but the typically warm temperatures and 1600 metres of altitude mean that times are never that fast. The races are often competitive, though, and that was certainly the case at this year’s edition.

A group of nine athletes remained at the front of the pack in the men’s race after passing half way in 1:04:41, suggesting the course record of 2:10:50 could be under threat. Shortly afterwards, Kenya’s Ernest Ngeno tried breaking away from the rest of the group and had built up a lead of about 15 seconds at 30 kilometres.

He managed to hold on the pole position for another five kilometres, but Gezahegn and Kenya’s Joshua Kipkorir were closing in. Gezahegn took the lead shortly after the 35-kilometre point and opened up a margin of 34 seconds over Ngeno at 40 kilometres.

Gezahegn didn’t let up and continued to extend his lead until the end, eventually crossing the line in 2:11:00. His time was 10 seconds shy of the course record, but nearly a minute quicker than his winning time from 12 months ago.

Ngeno, who finished third in Lanzhou last year, moved up one place on the podium to take second place in 2:12:32. Kenya’s Alex Chepkwik Saeko was third in 2:13:01.

While fewer athletes were in contention during the earlier stages of the women’s race, it went right down to the wire with the podium positions decided only in the closing metres.

The lead pack of six women ran together through 10 kilometres, reached in 35:12, and beyond half way, which they passed in 1:14:11. They stayed together until 30 kilometres but soon after just four women were left: Mohammed and Ethiopian trio Megertu Alemu, Muluhabt Tsega and Tigist Girma, last year’s runner-up.

Neither one of the four women showed any sign of relenting for the next 10 kilometres and they were still running side by side with little more than a kilometre left of the race.

Girma was the first to fade, leaving Alemu, Mohammed and Tsega to sprint for the line. Tsega couldn’t quite match the closing foot speed of the other two women and settled for third place, while Mohammed edged ahead of Alemu just before the line, winning in 2:32:22 with her rival being given the same time.

Tsega crossed the line 10 seconds later, while Girma finished fourth in 2:32:53.

There were 40,000 runners on the streets of Lanzhou on Sunday with 10,000 taking part in the marathon, 8000 in the half marathon and 22,000 in the 5km.

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF