It was a record breaking return for the Belgrade Delta Sports Marathon this morning, when Derba Bedada Medeksa of Ethiopia won in 2:12:10, breaking the course record by close to 20 seconds, while Russian Inga Abitova won the women’s race in 2:38:20.
Medeksa, 24, was always in the leading group of a dozen, mostly Kenyans, but when one of them, David Chepkwony broke away at 35 kilometres, it looked as if Medeksa would have to settle for second or third.
But, with the midday temperature rising towards 20C (68F), just a little too hot for marathon running, Medeksa chased down his Kenyan rival, and when Chepkwony paused to take a drink just two kilometres from the finish, the Ethiopian swept past and eventually won comfortably. Chepkwony was second in 2:12:29, with Collins Edep, also of Kenya third in 2:13:02.
The Ethiopian's handful of prior marathons, with a best of 2.13.55 for sixth place in Turin last year, gave him an edge over debutant Chepkwony, and Medeksa reduced his personal best by close to two minutes.
"When he (Chepkwony) went away, I was always confident I could catch him," said Medeksa, who hails from Arsi Province in the south of Ethiopia, the same as his famous compatriot, Haile Gebrselassie. But, like the star, Medeksa now lives in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. His victory earned him 12,000 euros.
"I'm very happy with this result in my first marathon," said Chepkwony. "We all planned to work together to 30-35k, and whoever was strongest would try to go clear. But at 40k I was thirsty and had to take water, and the Ethiopian didn't".
While Medeksa celebrated instead with a glass of warm milk, the organisers sipped down something a little stronger. For, after an absence of three years from the international marathon circuit, due to an argument with the city council, the result was a double vindication for Dejan Nikolic and his team.
Russians took the top two places in the women's race, with Inga Abitova winning in 2:38:20, ahead of Viktoria Zoueva on 2:38:40. Tiringo Shiferaw of Ethiopia was third in 2:39:47.
Pat Butcher for the IAAF
1 MEDEKSA Derba ETH 2:12:10
2 CHEPKWONY David KEN 2:12:29
3 EDEP Collins KEN 2:13:02
4 KILONZO Onesmus KEN 2:14:01
5 KIPRONO Isaac KEN 2:14:08
6 YEGO Josephat KEN 2:15:19
7 TOLA Adugna ETH 2:16:08
8 NGULU Thomas TAN 2:17:42
9 KIPTOO Francis KEN 2:17:54
10 MWOLO Gregory KEN 2:17:58
1 ABITOVA Inge RUS 2:38:20
2 ZOUEVA Viktoria RUS 2:38:40
3 SHIFERAW Tiringo ETH 2:39:47
4 PEREPELKINA Ttatyana RUS 2:42:12
5 LUKIC Marjana SCG 2:42:48
6 MALKOVA Zhanna RUS 2:44:45