25yearold Kenyan Moses Arusei who had a fast 2:06:50 personal best from Paris last season, but wasn’t considered as the only pre-race favourite on today’s 2009 Seoul International Marathon, Seoul, Korea in 2:07:54 in cool weather with a temperature below three degrees Celsius welcoming the runners in the morning.
Ethiopian Robe Tola won the women’s race in 2:25:37.
The Seoul International Marathon is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
The men’s race started with a big leading pack which included 15 runners who reached the 10km mark in a fast 30:04 whilst looking for a sub 2:07 time for the marathon.
The next 5km was the slowest of the race for the leaders, 15:34, and therefore not much happened before 20km which was passed in 60:46 so promising a finishing time of a bit over 2:08. 11 athletes had stayed in the lead group at this stage with eight of these Kenyans.
The pace slowed a bit again from 20-25km which took 15:21 and although the next 5km was slightly faster at 15:10 it was clear someone would have to make a move soon as there still were seven runners together with couple of Kenyans Robert Cheboror and Geoffrey Mutai dropped way back with both unable to finish the race.
After 30km Moses Arusei made his move and the changes down the field were dramatic. The next 5km from 30km to 35km saw Arusei in a comfortable 15 second lead ahead of Dejene Yirdawe (ETH) and a massive 49 seconds to fellow Kenyan Sylvester Teimet in third place. All others including former winner Jason Mbote, also from Kenya, had been dropped back by more than a minute.
With the race decided Arusei continued to open more space between him and the others finally winning in a fine result of 2:07:54, the second best mark of his career. This also marked the first major win for the Kenyan the first in any marathon since 2006 when he won the Thessaloniki marathon. It was also only the second time for Arusei under 2:10.
The real surprise of the competition, Dejene Yirdawe, continued well until the finish line setting a big personal best 2:08:30 for the second place snapping a massive three minutes and 21 seconds off his previous best in 2008.
Sylvester Teimet (KEN) was third in 2:10:11 just missing his PB 2:09:53 from Gongju marathon in 2008.
Jason Mbote was fourth this time in 2:10:38 just beating the best Korean Ji Young-Jun who was fifth in 2:10:41, his best time since 2004. Another Korean favourite 38-year-old 1996 Olympic silver medalist Lee Bong-Ju was 14th this time clocking 2:16:46. Lee has finished the last four Olympic marathons in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.
In the women’s race the Chinese favourites were well beaten and their four-year winning streak came easily to an end. Clearly the rest of the Chinese marathon stars are not in the same form they were last year and so Zhou Chunxiu can rest assured of her position as the Chinese number one marathon runner is not in jeopardy.
In today’s Seoul race, 22-year-old Ethiopian Robe Tola finally came close to her 2:24:35 personal best which she set winning the 2006 Hamburg marathon. The young Ethiopian easily handled the other runners in the race winning in a fast 2:25:37.
The women’s race started with the leaders breaking away early. Already the second 5km of the race from 5km to 10km which the three leading ladies covered in 16:29 was enough to drop most of the contenders.
The same pack of Robe Tola and Chinese Wei Yanan and Zhang Yingying were still together at 15km passing that distance in 50:52, but the 19-year-old star Zhang was dropped easily after this and the runner thought to be the next superstar in Chinese running is far from her previous form in 2007 and 2008.
Robe and Wei passed 20km in 68:14 with Zhang now in the chase group with two Koreans Lee Sun-Young and Park Ho-Sun some 80 seconds behind.
The leading duo reached 25km in 1:25:46 with Lee and Park in the chase almost two minutes behind and Zhang already almost two minutes behind them.
The Ethiopian then made a successful move dropping Wei quickly and was leading by more than a minute passing the 35km in 2:00:45 with Lee now in second and Wei two seconds behind her.
Tola continued for the win in 2:25:37 with 24-year-old Lee Sun-Young taking the second place with a 2:27:48 personal best, more than two minutes faster than 2:29:58 which she ran in November 2008.
Wei Yanan took the third place to China in 2:29:00 with Park Ho-Sun in fourth place with a big personal best 2:32:21, almost nine minutes faster than her earlier PB 2:41:01 from 2007. 19-year-old Zhang Yingying was fifth in 2:33:38, even slower than the 2:32:57 season’s best she ran in January.
Defending champion from 2008, Zhang Shujjing, also from China, finished back in seventh place in 2:38:48.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF
1. Moses Arusei Kenya 2:07:54
2. Dejene Yirdawe Ethiopia 2:08:30
3. Sylvester Teimet Kenya 2:10:11
4. Jason Mbote Kenya 2:10:38
5. Young Jun Ji Korea 2:10:41
6. Paul Biwott Kenya 2:11:03
7. Charles Kibiwott Kenya 2:11:18
8. Jun Hyun Hwang Korea 2:11:39
9. Myoung Ki Lee Korea 2:13:55
10. Gun Tae Uook Korea 2:14:58
1. Robe Guta Tola Ethiopia 2:25:37
2. Sun Young Lee Korea 2:27:48
3. Yanan Wei China 2:29:00
4. Ho Sun Park Korea 2:32:21
5. Yingying Zhang China 2:33:38
6. Yun Hee Chung Korea 2:34:14