Solomon Molla captures a surprise win at the JoongAng Seoul Marathon (JoongAng Seoul Marathon organisers) © Copyright
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Molla takes surprise victory in Seoul

Seoul, Korea21yearold Solomon Molla of Ethiopia and 24-year-old Korean Sung Young Lee took victories at today’s JoongAng Seoul Marathon. Molla won’ the men’s race in 2:08:46 and Lee the women’s contest in 2:29:58.

On a dry cool morning (12 C) under cloudy skies, almost 15,000 runners from all over the world set off from the start line for the 10th Anniversary running of the JoongAng Seoul Marathon – an IAAF Silver Label Road race - at Jamsil Main Stadium, and more than 9,000 followed setting off on 10 km race. It is one of the biggest marathons in Korea and Asia, held on a slightly hilly loop course, passing through some scenic parts of Seoul and roads lined with beautiful autumn trees.   

Last year the overall course record almost fell to Kenya’s Joshua Chelanga who won the men’s race in 2:08:14, just one second slower than the record set by his compatriot Jason Mbote, 2:08:13 in 2006.

The women’s course record was bettered last year by Korean runner Eun-Jung Lee who crossed in 2:29:32. This year despite good weather and a strong men’s elite field of 20 runners from Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and Korea the overall course record remained.

Molla bides his time - men’s Race

A large pack of runners, including nine athletes with personal bests below 2:10:00, led from the gun. Overcoming a small hill on the 4th km the pack passed through the 5 km point in 15:21 leaving 10 runners in the hunt for the prize purse, approaching US $200,000.

The pack moved shoulder to shoulder and included the following athletes, who took turns in the lead: three young Ethiopian athletes - Solomon Molla, 21, who placed 14th at the last year race but made good progress lately, setting two PBs this year, coming second with 2:11:05 in Ottawa Marathon and third in Rabat Half Marathon with 1:02:40; Chala Lemi, 21; Tessema Abshero, 22, who set PB 2:08:26 finishing forth in Hamburg this year; three Kenyan runners - Nicholas Chelimo,25, who set PB 2:09:42 at last year race finishing fifth, 30; Kiprotich Kenei, who set his personal best 2:07:42 at last year Hamburg marathon, placing third, and won 2008 Xizmen marathon in 2:09:49 and Paul Biwott; two Moroccan athletes - Ridouane Harroufi and Khalid El Boumlili; and Korea athletes Young-Jun Ji an Athens Olympian.

On the next 5 km stretch the pack members did not change their tactics, but accelerated a bit passing the10 mark two seconds faster in 30:40, leaving another Korean, Haeng-Jun Seo, 200 meters behind. Climbing the hill between the tenth and eleventh km slowed down the pack to 46:06 at the 15 km mark, and several more hills made slowed the pace even more through 20 km point, reached in 1:02:06.

The pack of nine passed the turn-around half point in 1:05:46. Though the hills did not finish here, Molla started increasing the pace but others answered the surge too not leave him alone. The 25 km mark was  passed in 1:16:48.

At 35 km, the real competition started. Molla made a bold surge to the front, but could not get rid of the closest chaser, Nicholas Chelimo. However, Chelimo did not have luck trying to overtake Molla, who threw in tentative surges, passing 40 km in 2:02:05, with Chelimo following 10 metres behind. They closed on the rest who tried to remain in contention.

Molla crossed the finish line in 2:08:46, having improved his PB by 2:19. He reserved his strength on the first half of the course, which allowed him to pass through the second half almost three minutes faster than the first. The runner-up, 25-year-old Chelimo followed in 2:08:51. He had every reason to be happy having improved his personal best by 45 seconds. Another Kenyan runner Paul Biwott came in third in 2:09:29.

Course record holder Jason Mbote had a cold several days before the race and did not recover completely. He started slowing down on the 23rd km and dropped out of the race completely around the 30 km point.

Lee in command from the gun - women’s race

In the absence of last year’s winner and course record holder, Korea’s Eun-Jung Lee, who finished 25th in Beijing Olympic Marathon, the main competition was expected between her cmpatriots Hae-Jin Bae (PB 2:32:56), the runner up last year in 2:37:43; Beijing Olympian Sung-Young Lee, who set a personal best 2:32:17 this year in the Seoul Int’l Marathon; and Kyung-Hee Lim (PB 2:34:08), an Osaka World Championships marathon finisher.

Sung-Young Lee practically wrapped up the title from the start. She quickly took charge of a small group which went with her for some time, but then she built up her lead and continued as a solo runner crossing unchallenged in 2:29:58. Runner- up Hae Jin Bae fell almost 13 minutes behind her finishing in 2:42:44.

Yelena Kurdyumova and Sergey Porada for the IAAF

Leading Results –
 1. Solomon Molla   ETH  2:08:46
 2. Nicholas Chelimo  KEN  2:08:51
 3. Paul Biwott   KEN  2:09:29
 4. Chala Lemi    ETH  2:09:36
 5. Ridouane Harroufi   MAR  2:10:14
 6. Khalid El Boumlili  MAR  2:10:59
 7. Tessema Abshero   ETH  2:11:09
 8. Kiprotich Kenei  KEN  2:11:21
 9. Young-jun Ji   KOR  2:13:04
10. Haeng-jun Seo  KOR  2:16:12

 1. Sung Young Lee  KOR  2:29:58
 2. Hae Jin Bae  KOR  2:42:44
 3. Kyung Hee Lim KOR  2:42:45
 4. Hyun Jin Noh  KOR  2:45:08
 5. Bong ha Lee  KOR 2:47:29
 6. Sung Jung Kim  KOR 2:50:56