Tsegaye Kebede wins the 2008 Paris Marathon (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
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Kebede takes Paris Marathon win in 2:06:40

Paris, FranceA 20old Ethiopian Tsegaye Kebede this morning won the 32nd edition of the Paris Marathon – an IAAF Gold Label Road Race – in 2:06:40, currently the second fastest time in the world this year. Kenyan Martha Komu created a surprise in the women's race, lowering her personal best by seven minutes to 2:25:33.

29,706 runners took the start of the 42,195m circuit across Paris streets, in front of some 200,000 spectators, on a sunny and cold (5°) morning. The still wind conditions allowed an impressive depth of performances, and despite the two uphill stretches the first 12 finishers dipped under 2:10 and the winner Kebede came within seven seconds of the 5-years-old course record.

This is the first marathon ever to have 12 men finishing under 2:10. Fukuoka had 10 such performances in 2003.

MEN

Kebede, accompanied by his fellow Ethiopian Guisa Shentema, stayed among an otherwise largely Kenyan leading group which included James and Hosea Rotich, Philip Manyim, Benson Barus, Moses Kimeli Arusei, David Kiyeng Kemboi, Paul Kosgei (the former track specialist and Half Marathon World champion).

The pack cruised past halfway in 1:03:40, a more realistic pace than last year’s edition when the pacemakers had splits of 1:02.50 in the 20° temperatures which resulted in only two sub 2:10 performances.

This year taking advantage of perfect running conditions, the runners stayed in the group and positions remained largely unchanged until the 30th kilometre when six Kenyans and the two Ethiopians were leading the race.

The second uphill point on the circuit caused the most damage as by the 35th kilometre there were only three runners battling for the victory: Kebede, Shetema and Kimeli Arusei.

Running at a much faster pace than their personal bests, it was unclear who would have the resources left to win:

Moses Kimeli Arusei, 24, a 2:10:30 performer was taking part in his fifth marathon after a modest carrier on the track; the young Kebede had produced his marathon debut last October in Amsterdam, 8th with 2:08:16 and had showed good form once again in February (59:35 PB in Ras Al Khaimah 8 Feb); Shentema was the most experienced of the trio, as the 27-years-old was contesting his tenth marathon since 2003 and had lowered his personal best in January to 2:09:27 (Dubai 18 Jan).

Shentema was the first victim, succumbing to an acceleration in pace with five kilometres to go and he eventually faded to 4th place in a still impressive 2:07:34.

Kebede finally managed to pull away from Arusei after 40km and his devastating sprint gave him his first international win in a marvellous time of 2:06:40. In his wake, the next seven runners also broke their personal bests.

The Paris Marathon was the occasion for French athletes to set the Olympic qualification standard (2:10:30), and former Kenyan Simon Munyutu took more than 2 minutes off his own personal best to place 11th in 2:09:24 and thus looks set to be selected for the French team for Beijing. Joy was complete for him after his wife Martha Komu won the women’s race in 2:25:37. Munyutu and Martha have a three-years old daughter.

WOMEN

Like the men’s race, it soon became clear that the women’s competition would turn into a Kenya versus Ethiopia match.

Five runners emerged as contenders in the early stages and formed the lead group: the Kenyan favourite Lenah Cheruyot, winner of the Paris Half Marathon one month ago, track specialist and marathon debutante Alice Timbilil, and their Kenyan teammate Martha Komu, based in France and surprisingly still in the pack in the later stages of the race in spite of a modest 2:32:45 PB. The two fastest in the field the Ethiopians Worknesh Tola (2:25:42) and Shitaye Gemeshu (2:26:15) were also in contention.

Despite her impressive PB, Tola couldn’t find a way to break away from Komu, who finally pulled away in the last 200m of the race to win in a final sprint to the line.

The unexpected winner, a shy Komu smashed her personal best by seven minutes and couldn’t adequately describe her joy: “I’d like to thank God because of all he gave to me today.”

P-J Vazel for the IAAF
 
RESULTS

Men

1. Tsegaye Kebede (ETH) 2:06:40 PB
2. Moses Kimeli Arusei (KEN) 2:06:50 PB
3. Josea Rotich (KEN) 2:07:24 PB
4. Gudisa Shentema (ETH) 2:07:34 PB
5. David Kemboi (KEN) 2:08:34 PB
6. Abraham Chelanga (KEN) 2:08:56 PB
7. Samson Barmao (KEN) 2:09:01 PB
8. Paul Kosgei (KEN) 2:09:15 PB
9. Benson Barus (KEN) 2:09:23
10. David Kiyeng (KEN) 2:09:23
11. Simon Munyutu (FRA) 2:09:24 PB
12. Philip Manyim (KEN) 2:09:56
13. James Rotich (KEN) 2:10:23
14. John Kibowen (KEN) 2:11:04 debut
15. Oleksandr Kuzin (UKR) 2:11:09
16. Toshinari Takaoka (JPN) 2:11:21
 

Women

1. Martha Komu (KEN) 2:25:33 PB
2. Worknesh Tola (ETH) 2:25:37 PB
3. Lenah Cheruiyot (KEN) 2:26:00 PB
4. Shitaye Gemeshu (ETH) 2:26:10 PB
5. Alice Timbilil (KEN) 2:26:45 debut
6. Tanya Filonyul (UKR) 2:28:40 PB
7. Aimaz Megersa (ETH) 2:29:53 PB
8. Mindaye Gishu (ETH) 2:30:20
9. Gulnara Vigovskaya (RUS) 2:30:33
10. Olga Glok (RUS) 2:30:40 PB
11. Yamna Oubouhou (FRA) 2:31:56 debut