Start of the Daegu International Marathon, the final test run for the 2011 World Championships course (Organisers) © Copyright
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Course records fall at Daegu Marathon

Running in warm conditions, Kenyan Yusuf Songoka and Atsede Habtamu of Ethiopia set new course records at the Daegu International Marathon on Sunday (10), the first and final test run for the course which will host the Marathons at the IAAF World Championships later this summer.

Good weather made it possible to really test the World Championships marathon course and it proved to be fast too. 31-year-old Songoka scored a big win in 2:08:08 while Habtamu took the women’s race in 2:25:52, also a course record. The top runners also suggested this course might be even a couple of minutes faster in perfect conditions, so this promises a very good World Championships marathon later this year.

The men’s race started with a fast pace and a huge lead pack of 21 athletes reached the five-kilometre mark in 15:04. To highlight the huge number of foreign athletes in this race, there was only one Korean in the group at this point with 12 Kenyans, five Ethiopians, two Chinese  and one Moroccan. The next 5Km was even faster with the trio of Daniel Abera (ETH) and Kenyans Hillary Kimaiyo and Boniface Muema leading the pack to 10km in 30:01, with 18 athletes left at the front. Despite the pace staying good for 45:10 at 15Km there was one more athlete in the lead group with Ethiopian Gashaw Melese catching up. There was only one change at 20km with Abera dropping off the race, but the 18 leading athletes were still up for a fast finishing time with a 60:38 split.

But the next 5Km, from 20 to 25km, dropped a few more making the now all African leaders 13 strong and reaching 25km in 1:15:50. At 30km (1:30:47) there were only 11 athletes left in the main group and Kenyans Muema, Samuel Muturi and Patrick Muriuki dropped off the race soon after that and suddenly there were only a few athletes to run for the win.

The stretch between 30-35km was a much slower one, but still more athletes were dropping back with six left to fight for the places on the podium. Following a 1:46:20 split at 35Km the final move for the win was soon made by Songoka. The 2010 Hannover Marathon winner was in a clear lead at 40km with Moroccan Abdellah Falil following eight seconds behind. Songoka’s 2:08:08 was a personal best as well as a course record with Falil following close behind in 2:08:18, a personal best for the 35-year-old veteran.

32-year-old Kenyan Leonard Mucheru was third in a 2:08:53 PB followed by Haile Haja Gemeda of Ethiopia, also finishing in a personal best 2:09:20. Felix Keny (KEN) was fifth in 2:09:25 and countryman Elias Kemboi sixth in 2:09:53 completing the top six under 2:10 in this race.

Women’s race - Ethiopians dominate

The women’s race had less elite athletes and therefore the lead pack was quickly a compact one with just a few runners. Habtamu, the winner of the 2009 Berlin Marathon, lead the runners to a 16:59 for first five kilometres with the first ten within seven seconds of each other. The pace continued to be steady with Habtamu reaching the 10km mark in 34:04 with now eight runners at the top - five Ethiopians, two Kenyans and Wang Xiaoshu of China. The Kenyans and the Chinese were dropped in the next 5km making this an Ethiopian national race now. Habtamu was still leading in 50:52 at 15km followed by Yeshi Esayias, Alemitu Abera, Makda Harun and Rehima Kedir, all timed the same 50:52.

There were no changes for awhile with the Ethiopians running together, clocking 1:08:07 for 20km, 1:25:46 for 25km and 1:43:12 for 30km. A little before the 30km mark the group had shredded to four with Kedir dropping down fast. At 35km (2:01:23) she was already more than a minute behind and the next 5km from 35 to 40km proved, not surprisingly, to be the decisive one.

Habtamu, already with a fast 2:24:26 personal best this January, sprinted off the group leading at 40km in 2:18:25, just two seconds ahead of Esayias with the other two, Abera and Harun now well behind. Habtamu held on to the lead to set a course record 2:25:52 with last year’s winner Esayias now finishing in runner-up position in 2:26:04, more than three minutes faster than her previous personal best set here last year (2:29:17).

Alemitu Abera was third in 2:26:33 personal best time in only her second Marathon, cutting a huge 14 minutes off her previous PB. Makda Harun was fourth in 2:27:46 and Irene Kosgei of Kenya overtook Rehima Kedir to take fifth place in 2:31:31 with Kedir timed 2:32:11 for the sixth place.

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF

Leading Results:
MEN -
1. Yusuf Songoka, KEN        2:08:08
2. Abdellah Falil, MAR       2:08:18
3. Leonard Mucheru, KEN      2:08:53
4. Haile Haja Gemeda, ETH    2:09:20
5. Felix Keny, KEN           2:09:25
6. Elias Kemboi, KEN         2:09:53
7. Evans Ruto, KEN           2:10:38
8. Dereje Raya Tadesse, ETH  2:10:42

WOMEN -
1. Atsede Habtamu, ETH    2:25:52
2. Yeshi Esayias, ETH     2:26:04
3. Alemitu Abera, ETH     2:26:33
4. Makda Harun, ETH       2:27:46
5. Irene Kosgei, KEN      2:31:31
6. Rehima Kedir, ETH      2:32:11
7. Yuko Machida, JPN      2:32:39
8. Tomo Higuchi, JPN      2:33:48