Ben Chebet won today's Maratona di Sant’Antonio in Padua breaking the course record and his PB with 2:09:42.
It was a perfect present for the 10th edition of the Marathon which started at 9.00am from Vedelago and finished in the big square Prato della Valle in the heart of Padua on a cloudy morning but in ideal running conditions.
Chebet started with a previous PB of 2:10:50 set in 2008 when he won in Carpi. It was the third win in the career of Chebet who finished first in Thessaloniki last year. Another Kenyan Noah Kiplagat Serem finished second in 2:11:44 ahead of Ethiopian Tesfaye Bekele, third in 2:13:34.
Woynichet Girma from Ethiopia took the women’s race smashing her PB by four minutes with 2:31:15 beating her compatriot Moges Gebre Zebenay (2:31:15) and Deborah Toniolo, third in 2:31:20.
After a conservative start with the first kilometre run in 3:14, pacemakers Abraham Talam and Henry Rutto set a fast pace closely followed by Yusuf Songoka and Douglas Rono (winner in Padua in 2002 and younger brother of former marathon World record holder Paul Tergat). They passed the first 5km in 15:07.
Eleven runners formed the leading group who passed the 10km mark in 30:12 at a 2:08 final pace.
At 12km the pace slowed a bit after the fierce rhythm in the first 10km but it was still inside the course record of 2:10:38 set by Ethiopian Dawit Trfe in 2003. The lead at this point was shared by the two pacemakers Talam and Rutto and Kenyans Douglas Rono, Ben Chebet Kipruto, Yusuf Songoka, Noah Kiplagat Serem, Julius Choge and Ethiopian Tesfaye Bekele.
The all-African leading group kept to a course record pace under 2:10 at the 21km mark passing in 1:04:38.
Rono lost the ground from the leading pack at 22 km. When the first pacemaker Talam dropped out at 25 km (1:16:39), it was Rutto who kept the pace until the 27km when only Chebet and Bekele took the lead followed ten metres behind by Serem and the Ethiopian Lilesa Gemechu.
Chebet took the initiative at 28km. The only runner able to follow Chebet was Bekele, while Serem and Gemechu formed the chasing group fifteen metres behind.
Chebet pushed the pace passing the 30km in 1:31:49 (thanks to three consecutive splits in 2:58) but Bekele did not give up and followed him closely in the leading position.
Chebet and Bekele ran a neck-to neck race until the 35km when the Kenyan broke away from the Ethiopian by nine seconds with a decisive kick with seven kilometres to go. Serem led the chasing group 1:02 behind Chebet.
Behind Chebet who continued to run at a very good pace still inside the sub-2:10 pace thanks to a 3:05 for each km, Bekele began to fade and was caught up by Serem at 39 km in the battle for second place.
Chebet’s win was no longer in danger when he crossed the area near the old athletics stadium Arcella in Padua with two kilometres to go to the finish-line in Prato della Valle. He entered the final straight in Prato della Valle pushed on by the strong support of the local crowd and crossed the finish line in 2:09:42, improving the previous record by 56 seconds.
“I realised that I could break the course record at 25 km,” said Chebet. “We were running at 2:08 pace but the cobblestones caused us some problems. When I tried to push the pace at 35 km, Bekele could not follow my rhythm.”
The five favourites took the lead from the beginning of the women’s race. The leading group was formed by Italians Deborah Toniolo and Ivana Iozzia and three Ethiopians Meseret Legesse, Woynishet Girma and Moges Gebre Zebenaye.
Toniolo, a 2:28 marathon runner who has returned to competitions after being sidelined by injury problems in 2008, took the initiative at the lead of the group ahead of Legesse, Girma and Zebenaye passing the 5 km mark in 17:52 and the 10 km in 35:38. Iozzia ran at the back of the leading pack.
Toniolo led at the halfway mark in 1:15:29 closely followed by the three Ethiopian runners Zebenaye, Girma and Legesse. Iozzia lost the ground on the leading four women and was dropped by eight seconds.
For the first time Moges Gebre Zebenaye went to the lead at 30km (1:47:24) closely follwed by Toniolo, Girma and Legesse. Meanwhile Iozzia continued to lose the ground.
The race reached the climax at 37 km when Zebenaye took the initiative pushing the pace at the front ahead of Girma and Legesse. At 38km Zebenaye continued to run smoothly at the front ahead of Girma, while Toniolo lost the ground on the Ethiopians.
The race became a battle between Zebenaye and Girma who broke away dropping Toniolo and Legesse by 15 seconds at 40 km. Girma launched her attack at 41km pulling away from Zebenaye with a gap of 10 seconds, while Toniolo and Legesse fought for the third place.
Woyneshet Girma’s final kick proved to be decisive in the battle with her compatriot. "I entered the Padua Marathon with a PB of 2:35:48 set in Treviso in 2008 and lowered it to 2:31:03. I am delighted with this result”, said Girma who beat Zebenaye by 12 seconds. Toniolo ended up securing third for Italy by 17 seconds.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
1 Ben Chebet (Kenya) 2:09:42
2 Noah Kiplagat Serem (Kenya) 2:11:44
3 Tesfaye Bekele (Ethiopia) 2:13:34
4 Yusuf Songoka (Kenya) 2:14:29
5 Benazzouz Slimani (Morocco) 2:14:55
6 Julius Choge (Kenya) 2:17:49
1 Woyshinet Girma (Ethiopia) 2:31:03
2 Moges Gebre Zebenay (Ethiopia) 2:31:15
3 Deborah Toniolo (Italy) 2:31:20
4 Meseret Legesse (Ethiopia) 2:31:37
5 Ivana Iozzia (Italy) 2:34:32