Atsede Baysa and Tadesse Tola produced an impressive Ethiopian double victory at the 34th Marathon de Paris in the French capital on Sunday.
Baysa broke the women’s race record with her 2:22:04 performance, the fastest in the world this year while Tola smashed his personal best by more than nine minutes to take the men’s title in 2:06:41 at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
Baysa’s lofty ambitions reap dividends - women’s race
Ethiopian Atsede Baysa, winner of this race last year with a personal best of 2:24:42 and the winner of the Paris Half Marathon last month, had set her ambitions high. She not only intended to defend her crown, but was aiming for the old course record of 2:23:05 set by Marleen Renders seven years ago.
Baysa immediately took the race in front with fellow Ethiopian team-mates as her plan was to pass the half-way point in 1:11. By the 5th kilometre, French star Christelle Daunay, who had finished third in Paris in 2007 and 2009 as well as in New York in last November, was 14 seconds behind, escorted by a group of men including her husband.
In front, the Ethiopian was accompanied by her team-mates Tirfe Tsegaye, marathon debutante Gurmu Workitu Ayanu (a former track specialist with 14:50.15 at 5000m at age 20 in 2007) and Azalech Woldeselassie.
Progressively, Baysa pulled away with two men. Her intermediate time were 49:57 at 15Km, 1:10:04 at half-way, 1:23:16 at 25km, and 1:40:19 at 30km, which indicated that she was on pace for a course record.
Baysa further increased her lead at 35km (1:57:16) with Daunay now some two minutes behind. Daunay caught and passed Woldeselassie, while Baysa, never looking back and assured of a clear victory, was fully focused on the clock, passing the 40th kilometre in 2:14:16. With two kilometres to go, Daunay continued on her own way and passed the second Ethiopian Tsegaye.
Baysa confirmed she was the queen of the Parisian streets in retaining her title and clocking the fastest time in the world this year, with 2:22:04, a minute inside Renders’ famous race record.
French record for Daunay
Daunay, 35, fulfilled her promise to break the national record, and did it with panache, as her 2:24:22 represented a huge improvement from last years’ 2:25:43.
“I was less confident than last year due to the poor weather in France this fall which resulted in foot injuries,” Daunay explained. “But my last workouts were very strong. However, the marathon is usually uncertain and one has to be in shape on D-day. I’m happy to be second because I’ve always finished in 3rd place. I opened on strong basis, although I didn’t try to follow the Ethiopians because we knew they wanted to start on 2:20 pace. I gain experience at each marathon, especially in New York when I realised I was part of the bests of the world and I could position myself in front of the races.”
Marathon breakout for Tola - men’s race
As expected, a group of Kenyan and Ethiopian runners began the race with a quick pace. A tight group of 28 men, led by pacemakers James Theuri and Dieudonné Disi, reached the fifth kilometre in 15:07 and the 10th in 30:11, slowed by a headwind on Faubourg Saint Antoine. At this point, Tola was tucked behind the other pacemaker, David Njagi.
But while cruising through Bois de Vincennes, the pace slightly increased, and as a result the group started to stretch. Indeed, they covered the following 5km in 4:57 reaching 15km in 45:08 with Ethiopians Tola, Zambala Yegeze (second in Houston four months ago with 2:08:27), and Hailu Mekonnenn (2:12:36 in his marathon debut in March).
One of favourites, Stephen Kibiwot (second in Prague in May 2009 with 2:07:54), fell and had to make a tremendous effort with Chelanga to renew contact with the leaders. A few minutes later, two other falls occurred, as Mekonnen and Kenyan Daniel Kosgei (2:08:48, 2009) tumbled while grabbing fluids at the refreshment stand located at the half-way point.
Midway was reached in 1:03:00, with Kenyan Alfred Kering (2:09:19 and 2:09:52 in 2009) now at the front.
As they crossed for the Place de la Bastille for the second time, the pace temporarily slowed and was now over three minutes per kilometre, with the 25km marker reached in 1:14. Kiptoo then injected an acceleration along the banks of the Seine, which only a dozen men survived. The remaining pacemaker, Kenyan Philip Manyim (winner in Berlin five years ago with 2:07:41), stopped after reaching 30 kilometres in 1:22:50.
Ethiopian Negari Terfa, who was third in the Berlin Marathon last year with 2:07:44 and one of the main contenders for victory, lost contact with the group with nine kilometres to go. Kenyans Wilson Kipsang (a marathon debutante but the eighth all-time performer at the half-marathon with 58:52) and 2009 Rome winner Benjamin Kiptoo were leading the compact front pack at 35 kilometres (1:45:21) with the eight men observing each other and perceptibly slowing down, entering into a tactical finish for victory.
Kibiwot probably paid for his earlier effort as he was the first to fall back. With five kilometres to go, Kering and Tola produced a decisive acceleration while Kiptoo almost fell on the corner and went out of contention.
Kipsang couldn’t follow the two men in front and was running third with Daniel Kiprugut (10th last year in Paris with 2:08:38) a distant fourth. Tola progressively opened a gap over Kipsang, while the wind was blowing against them, underlying the fatigue at 2:00:05 at 40km.
The Ethiopian secured his victory thanks to a storming finish, crossing the line in 2:06:41, smashing his personal best.
Tola, who only had one reference over the distance with 2:15:48 in Chicago seven months ago, was not unknown as he ran 27:04:89 at age 19 in 2007 and won the New York Half Marathon in 2008 and 2009.
Some 40,000 runners lined up on a cool (9°) and sunny Sunday morning.
Pierre Jean Vazel for the IAAF
1 Tadesse Tola (ETH) 2:06:41
2 Alfred Kering (KEN) 2:07:11
3 Wilson Kipsang (KEN) 2:07:13
4 Benjamin Kiptoo Koulum (KEN) 2:08:01
5 Daniel Kipkurgat (KEN) 2:08:29
6 Mulugeta Wami (ETH) 2:08:32
7 Zambala Yegeze (ETH) 2:08:48
8 Haylu Mekonnen (ETH) 2:09:01
9 Francis Kibiwott (KEN) 2:09:26
10 Vincent Kiplagat (KEN) 2:09:38
1 Atsede Bayisa (ETH) 2:22:04
2 Christelle Daunay (FRA) 2:24:22
3 Tsegaye Tirfi Beyene (ETH) 2:24:51
4 Azalech Woldeselasse (ETH) 2:25:34
5 Workitu Ayanu Gurma (ETH) 2:29:25
6 Melkam Gisaw (ETH) 2:32:14