Ethiopia claimed a winning double at the 29th edition of the Venice Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, thanks to Behailu Mamo and Konjit Tilahun on Sunday (26).
Mamo crossed the finish line in 2:16.45 while Tilahun justified her mantle of favourite for the women’s race and won in 2:40:20, the times slowed by strong winds. In fact, the women's winning time was the slowest in the race's history, almost 17minutes adrift of the women's course record of 2:23:37 set by Kenya's Helen Kirop three years ago.
The men’s race set off at a very restrained pace. Kenyan pacemaker Robert Ndiwa went through the first 5km in 15.52 while towing a quartet of his compatriots:Donald Sambu, Weldon Korir and Elijah Serem and Joseph Kiptum, the latter being the fastest man in the field with a best of 2:09:56, as well as Mamo.
Ndiwa, who was designated to pace the race until 25km, then sped up just before at 10km with a 2:59 kilometre, passing 10km in 31:17 but Mamo decided to reel in the rampant pacemaker at 15km and pulled away from the chasing group of Kiptum, Serem and Korir before closing the gap on Ndiwa.
The race then settled down and continued at a modest pace: 15km in 46:58, 21km in 1:05:52 and 25km in 1:18:08.
However, shortly after the 25km checkpoint, Mamo was alone in the lead and continued to increase his gap on the rest of the field.
The 20-year-old went through 30km in 1:31:50 before running across the 4km Liberty Bridge, which links Mestre to Venice.
The effort took its toll on Mamo in the last section of the course, which is traditionally the hardest part of the race.
Almost a bridge too far
Runners cross 14 bridges in the final three kilometres before passing by Piazza San Marco and Palazzo Ducale before reaching the finish in Riva dei sette Martiri.
Mamo reached the 40km mark in 2:07:01 but the visibly tired Ethiopian runner ran the last two kilometres at four-minute pace. However, he had built up a comfortable gap and his win was never under threat.
In the last few kilometres, former Italian national marathon champion Giovanni Gualdi moved through the field to finish second in 2:18:40.
“I am not happy with the time but I felt pain on my knees,” commented Mamo
In the women’s race, Ethiopian training partners Gedefa Motu Megersa and Konjit Telahun broke away from the rest of the field early and were in front for most of the race.
The pair went through at 15km in 56:27 before reaching the halfway mark in 1:21:14. Tilahun, who clocked a 2:28:11 personal best in Dubai in 2012, then left behind her compatriot at 25km and ran alone for 17 kilometres before crossing the finish line with a huge gap of almost 12 minutes over Megersa, who struggled in the final stages but managed to finish second in 2:52.19.
“It was a difficult race because we felt a strong head wind along the course,” reflected Tilahun.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF