Hafid Chani and Amane Gobena took the honours at the 2014 Vodafone Istanbul Marathon, winning at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race in 2:11:53 and 2:28:46 respectively on Sunday (16).
In the 36th edition of the race, perhaps encouraged by the surprising cool conditions with the temperature hovering around 13 degrees Celsius, Josphat Muchiri Ndambiri went straight to the front from the gun and was 47 seconds ahead of the rest of the field when he passed the 5km mark in and audacious 15:22 and then hit 10km in 29:54, nearly two minutes before anyone else in the race
However, the gap was down to a minute when Ndambiri passed the halfway point in at 1:04:51, with Eritrea’s Mulue Andom, the Ethiopian trio of Bazu Worku, Gebo Burka and Ketema Tadesse, and the Kenya pair Michael Kiprop and Cosmas Kimutai in pursuit.
Just before 23km, Andom took the lead with Morocco’s Hafid Chani coming from a long way behind to join him. The two athletes passed 25km shoulder-to-shoulder by 1:17:41.
Chani, who finished ninth in the 2013 London Marathon with his career best of 2:09:11, made a move to the front towards the 27th kilometre but the main pack followed closely and led his nearest rival Burka by just 10 metres at 30km, which he passed at 1:33:03.
The 28-year-old slowed down over next 5km to test his challengers but saw no reaction; in fact, race favourite Worku dropped out at 32 kilometres.
Having passed 35km in 1:49:22, Chani was still in the lead by nearly 10 metres and he then decided to push the pace and move away, increasing the gap each kilometre.
It was Chani’s first win in the six marathons of his career and he was clearly delighted with the outcome, an upset victory considering the presence of several men with faster bests and better credentials ahead of the race, giving away ‘high fives’ to the spectators in the last 100 metres.
He crossed the finish line exactly 30 seconds in front of Burka, who was second in 2:12:23.
Kiprop had a strong final four kilometres and moved up into third place just before 40km and stayed in that position all the way to the line, which he crossed in 2:12:39.
Like the men, the women’s race also had a runner who decided to take matters into her own hands early in the race.
Local road running talent Ummu Kiraz of Turkey led from the start and passed 5km in 17:50 and 10km in 35:25. However, Ethiopia’s Emebt Etea, Amane Gobena and Salomie Getnet kept the gap to around 80 metres, with the home hope Elvan Abeylegesse, Ukraine’s Olena Burkovska and London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Tatyana Petrova Arkhipova close behind.
By the halfway point, covered in 1:14:52, Kiraz was still in the lead by 29 seconds over what had become a six-women pack,
However, around 25 kilometres, race favourite Gobena decided to haul in Kiraz and increased her pace, taking the lead two kilometres later and she passed 30km at 1:46:03, 26 seconds faster than Kiraz and Getnet.
Abeylegesse was running just behind the chasing pair but Burkovska and Petrova Arkhipova were by now another 100 metres in arrears.
Gobena carried on forging ahead and remained unchallenged until the finish line, finishing almost two minutes ahead of anyone else.
Getnet was second in 2:30:36, Burkovska was third with 2:31:30 and Petrova Arkhipova took fourth place with 2:31:47.
Former 5000m world record holder Abeylegessie was fifth in 2:32:15 with the early leader Kiraz eventually finishing sixth in 2:32:52
“I’m very happy to be here for the third time and win for the first” said the 32-year-old Gobena, who was finished third in Istanbul in 2010 and second in 2012.
Her only disappointment was missing out on the course record of 2:27:25, set in 2010 by her compatriot Ashu Kasim Rabo, with race organisers having high hopes that the mark might be improved upon this year.
Organisers for the IAAF