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Both course records were broken and a number of Olympic qualifying standards achieved in fine weather at the 10th Metro Group Marathon Düsseldorf.
Ethiopia’s Seboka Diriba Tola ran 2:08:27 to improve the two-year-old mark by five seconds, while in contrast the women’s winner caused quite a surprise as Agnes Jeruto Barsosio of Kenya ran a great debut to win with 2:25:49, bettering the previous course record by almost a minute.
The Metro Group Marathon Düsseldorf is an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race.
It was the best quality race in the history of the event with seven men clocking sub-2:11 times and five women running inside 2:30.
Tola breaks away over final kilometre
In almost ideal weather conditions with temperatures around 15C at the start, overcast skies and hardly any wind, the men’s leading group was on course for a sub 2:08 time. 10km was passed in 30:21 with the pace slowing slightly as the group reached the half way mark in 1:04:14. But then the leading group of around a dozen runners picked it up again.
Among the runners who were dropped from the first group at this stage was Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi, who got a lot of media attention and drew many Japanese spectators to the course. "It did not work out for me today," said Kawauchi, who went on to finish eighth in 2:12:58. "The Africans set the pace and it was up and down. But it was a great experience to run here in Düsseldorf and I would like to come back. I will certainly learn from this race and next time I will compete with a better strategy."
Six runners were still in contention for victory at 30km (1:31:12). Tola was joined by former Kenyan Abraham Kiprotich, now representing France, and a phalanx of Kenyan runners, including Duncan Koech, defending champion Nahashon Kimaiyo, Abraham Chelanga and former two-time Chicago winner Evans Rutto, who was contesting his first Marathon for almost five years.
It was Kimaiyo who was dropped first. After Rutto and Chelanga had also lost contact, a tactical race developed around the 35km mark. None of the three left in the leading group made a move. The pace dropped and the chances of a sub-2:08 clocking faded. Even the two-year-old course record set by Moldova’s Iaroslav Musinschi seemed to slip away. But when Tola finally did take off with one kilometre to go, he produced the fastest 1000m of the race and with a 2:49 sprint he broke the mark by five seconds with 2:08:27.
Behind him, Koech (2:08:33), Kiprotich (2:08:35) and Poland’s Marcin Chabowski (2:10:07) achieved the Olympic qualifying times set by their national federations. Meanwhile, Rutto (2:10:10), Kimaiyo (2:10:28) and Chelanga (2:10:40) all ran inside 2:11.
"For me today it was all about winning," said 24-year-old Tola. "After I ran my personal best of 2:06:17 in Dubai in January I am happy with today’s victory."
Jeruto debuts with course record
In the women’s race a leading group of six athletes ran together in the first half of the Marathon. Pre-race favourite Kebebush Haile Lema and her fellow Ethiopians Gishu Tilahun Mindaye, Melkam Gisaw and Fantu Eticha Jimma formed this group together with the Kenyans Agnes Jeruto Barsosio and Jane Rotich. After they had passed half way in 1:12:25 the group began to break up.
Between 30km and 35km, 29-year-old debutant Jeruto was out on her own. She had indicated before the race that she would go for a 2:25 finish, although her half-marathon best is only 1:12:03. She almost broke that PB during the marathon.
"It was a great debut for me," said Jeruto, whose time of 2:25:49 broke the course record by 55 seconds. "I had no problems during the race and the pacemakers guided me well. It was only on the final four kilometres that I slowed a bit."
Second-placed Nastassia Staravoitava of Belarus ran inside her country’s Olympic qualifying time with 2:27:24 as did her fellow-countrywoman Olga Dubovskaya, who took fourth with 2:28:07, both of them smashing their lifetime bests. In between them Gisaw was third with 2:27:50 as Lema took fifth place in 2:29:02.
Germany’s Anna Hahner ran a fine marathon debut, but she just missed the national qualifying standard for the London Olympics by 14 seconds. Clocking 2:30:14 for sixth place, the 22-year-old hopes that selectors might still pick her after a good race.
In contrast there is still no light at the end of the tunnel for the German men. Former European 10,000m champion Jan Fitschen dropped out because of muscle problems after 24.5km, meaning that once again no male German runner will compete in the Olympic men’s Marathon.
A total of 14,000 athletes had entered the various events, with 4000 of them taking part in the marathon.