Aberu Kebede upstaged her male counterparts at the BMW Frankfurt Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, when she won in 2:22:21 on Sunday (26).
For much of the second half of the race, Kebede looked set to break the course record of 2:21:01 set by her compatriot Meselech Melkamu two years ago, and she reached the 35km mark in 1:56:38 after having been out on her own from just after the halfway point, but she tired over the final four kilometres and Melkamu’s mark slipped from her grasp.
Despite her win in the third fastest time of her 13-marathon career, with six wins now to her name, there will be an element of disappointment for Kebede that she did not run faster.
At the pre-race press conference, she openly talked about reducing her personal best of 2:20:30 set two years ago when winning in Berlin.
Kenya’s 2011 IAAF World Championships bronze medallist Sharon Cherop was second with 2:23:44.
She was together with Kebede and Melkamu, who was later to drop out just after 30km, as the trio reached halfway in 1:10:35 but had no answer when Kebede started to increase the pace shortly afterwards.
Ethiopia’s Ashetu Bekere took third place in 2:24:59, coming through strongly after 21 kilometres after going through the halfway point as part of a group of four running 1:25 behind the front three. She sliced almost three minutes off her previous best of 2:27.47 set when winning last year’s Kosice Marathon.
In a reversal of fortunes from 12 months ago, after being out-sprinted in the final few hundred metres in 2013, Kenya’s Mark Kiptoo this time had a better turn of speed than his younger rivals and won the men’s race in 2:06:49.
Mike KIgen was second in 2:06:59 and Gilbert Yegon third in 2:07:08 to make it an all-Kenyan men’s podium
A huge leading pack of 14 runners, excluding the appointed pacemakers, went through the halfway point in 1:02:32, which was exactly the scheduled asked by the race organisers.
However, that split doesn’t tell the whole story and there was some very uneven running during the first half of the race, passing 10km in a very quick 29:24 and reaching 15km in 44:13 before slowing down, which clearly had an effect during the second half of the race.
Over the next few kilometres, the pace continued to ease slightly and 30km was reached in 1:29:14 with 12 runners, and two pacemakers, still in the first group at the front.
Between 30km and 35km, several men started to struggle and drift away from the leading group, including 2013 champion Vincent Kipruto, who was to finish a disappointing 13th in 2:12:09, and the highly-rated Ethiopian junior Tsegaye Mekonnen, who dropped out just after 30km.
However, at 35km, which was reached in 1:44:21, there were six men still in contention and clearly there was going to be a thrilling finish whatever figures were on the clock.
Ethiopia’s Deribe Roba was the first to fall back from the leading group and Kenya’s Ronald Korir slipped out of contention at 39km.
Just after 40km, it was the turn of Ethiopia’s Tebalu Zawude to throw in the towel, at least as far as victory was concerned.
Coming into the last kilometre, Kigen and Yegon looked to have opened up a slight gap over the 38-year-old Kiptoo, but this year the latter was not to be denied and he used his turn of speed that took him to a 5000m best time of 12:53:46 in 2010 to go pass his countrymen and then pull away.
In total, the first six men home finished within 40 seconds of each other: Zawude was fourth with 2:07:10, Robi fifth in 2:07:16 and Korir sixth in 2:07:29.
Germany's 2012 European 5000m silver medallist Arne Gabius kept the home crowd happy on his debut over the classic distance when he came home ninth in 2:09:32, the first sub-2:10 time by a German since 1990 and the third fastest by a European this year.
Organisers for the IAAF