In just her second ever race over the classic distance, Kenya’s Rebecca Chesire held off a late charge from marathon debutante Elvan Abeylegesse to win the Vodafone Istanbul Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (17).
While Chesire became the first Kenyan woman to win in Istanbul, Abraham Kiprotich of France earned a similar accolade in the men’s race, opening a gap of almost one minute over the rest of the field in the closing stages.
For much of the women’s race, all eyes were on Turkish record-holder Sultan Haydar, who led from the outset and covered 5km in 17:47 and 10km in 34:47. Roughly a quarter of the way into the race, Haydar had six other athletes for company including Chesire and compatriot Emily Ngetich as well as the Ethiopian quartet of Gulume Tollesa, Bizunesh Urgesa, Amena Gobena and Makida Abdelah.
Some 40 seconds behind the leaders, 2008 Olympic 5000m and 10,000m silver medallist Abelyegesse was running cautiously in 10th place, having already seen Mariya Konovalova – the Russian 39-year-old who recently set a PB of 2:22:46 in Chicago – drop out in the opening few kilometres.
Haydar reached the half-way point in 1:12:50 with the same six African runners still running a stride or two behind. Abeylegesse – who said before the race that her target was to simply run 2:30 – was now more than a minute behind the leaders, passing 13.1 miles in 1:13:53.
Of Haydar’s pursuers, Ngetich and Abdelah were the first casualties as they began to drift back shortly after half way. Urgesa and Tollesa were the next to fall as they trailed the leaders by 41 seconds at 30km. Haydar was still leading with just Chesire and Gobena left for company, while Abeylegesse had steadily made her way through the field into sixth place.
Abeylegesse made up 30 seconds over the next 5km section and had moved into fourth but was still more than half a minute adrift of the leading trio with little more than 7km of running left.
The race really came alive in the closing kilometres as Haydar finally surrendered her lead to Chesire, while Abeylegesse looked poised to challenge on the shoulder of the Kenyan with one mile to go.
But Chesire’s experience over the full distance paid off and she saved enough for the finish to win in 2:29:05, just 73 seconds shy of the PB she set earlier this year in Dusseldorf, her only other Marathon to date.
Surprisingly, Chesire becomes the first Kenyan to win the women’s race in Istanbul. The event has a 35-year history, while the women’s race has been held every year since 1991 with Ethiopian women having won at the past four editions.
Abeylegesse achieved her sub-2:30 goal, dipping inside the barrier by 30 seconds. Haydar meanwhile was rewarded with her front-running duties with a podium finish in third in 2:29:40, one second faster than the time she ran when finishing in the same position in this race last year.
Kiprotich saves it all for the finish
A large leading group formed early on in the men’s race, going through 5km in 15:33 and 10km in 30:33. Ethiopia’s Desta Alemu put in a slight injection of pace approaching the half-way mark as the lead group temporarily split.
Alemu, the 2009 World youth steeplechase bronze medallist who was making his marathon debut, passed the half-way mark in 1:04:23 level with France’s Abraham Kiprotich. At that point it looked as though a sub-2:09 finish time was possible.
A couple of miles later and the leaders had regrouped with seven men still in contention. Alemu’s fellow Ethiopians Ketema Tadesse, Hailu Seifu and 2009 Boston Marathon winner Deriba Merga were in the pack along with Kiprotich and Kenyan duo Philemon Munyun and Yegon Kiprotich, the runner-up last year in Istanbul.
After passing 35km in 1:48:59, Kiprotich decided enough was enough and began to open a gap on the rest of the field. Merga tried to go with him, while Ethiopia’s Siraj Gena, the 2010 Rome Marathon winner, was coming through strong and had moved into third.
Over the next 5km segment, Kiprotich had opened up a lead of almost one minute on his chasers and he ended up crossing the line in 2:12:28. In notching up his second international marathon victory of 2013, Kiprotich became the first French athlete to win in Istanbul.
Gena came through for second place in 2:13:19, finishing more than a minute ahead of Merga (2:14:43).
“I’m very happy for winning the marathon, but I’m a bit upset because I could not break the course record,” said Kiprotich of the 2:10:39 mark set by Kenya’s Vincent Kiplagat in 2010.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF