Pre-race favourite Albert Matebor came through to win the 11th edition of the Dbam O Zdrowie Lodz Marathon, winning the IAAF Silver Label Road Race in 2:11:49 on Sunday (19).
After a two-way battle in the final kilometres, the Kenyan crossed the finish line eight seconds ahead of Ethiopia's Dereje Tadesse.
There was a much more decisive victory in the women's race, as the Pole Monika Stefanowicz (nee Drybulska) took the win in a personal best of 2:29:28, finishing nearly 90 seconds before the second placed Agnieszka Mierzejewska.
On a cool and cloudy morning in Lodz, the top competitors in the men's race started cautiously, with none of the favourites willing to push the pace. Ivan Babaryka of Ukraine was the most active during the early kilometres, but the group of 10 runners which formed early in the race was still together at the halfway point, reached in 1:06:05.
The group was gradually reduced to six at 30km (1:33:42), at which point it included three Kenyans – Matebor, Hassan Mokaya and Stephen Kiplimo – and two Ethiopians, Dereje Tadesse and Gelgelo Tona, as well as Poland’s Yared Shegumo, last year's winner of the race.
It was only after that point that the race began to take shape, however. Approximately 10km from the finish, the African duo of Matebor and Tadesse broke away from the rest of the pack. Running together, they gradually built up their lead up to 20 seconds at 40km.
From then on, it was all about Matebor. The Kenyan, boasting a personal best of 2:05:25 but with only one previous marathon win in his career (Verona in 2011), easily ran away from Tadesse in the final kilometre to reach the finish in 2:11:49, as the Ethiopian hung on for second place in 2:11:57.
There was a close battle for third place as well. Shegumo and Outoya were still running together at the 40km mark, but in the end the Ethiopian prevailed, reaching the finish line in 2:12:08. European silver medallist Shegumo was six seconds behind in fourth and the top Pole in the race.
Mokaya and Babaryka finished in fifth and sixth place, respectively, both within a minute of the leader, while Stephen Kiplimo in seventh just missed achieving this feat with 2:12:51.
Stefanowicz leads Polish 1-2
In the women’s race, a small leading group formed early. At 10km, only five women ran at the front: race favourite Makda Harun of Ethiopia, her compatriot Ayelu Abebe, Kenyan Peninah Arusei, Ukrainian Tatyana Vernyhor and Poland’s Monika Stefanowicz.
The composition of the group remained the same at the halfway point, where the leader Harun was timed in 1:14:35. The second-best Pole, Agnieszka Mierzejewska, was the only close follower, a dozen seconds behind the group.
Soon after, the group began to break up with Stefanowicz and Arusei emerging as the leaders. At 30km, the two were already more than half a minute clear of the two Ethiopians, with Mierzejewska moving up to fifth place just behind them.
A few kilometres later, the two-woman lead group was reduced to one. As Arusei began to suffer, Stefanowicz was left as the sole leader. By the time the runners reached the timing point situated before the 39th kilometre, the Polish leader built a virtually unsurmountable lead of 88 seconds. By that point, the Kenyan had also been caught and overtaken by Mierzejewska. As the Ethiopian pair slowed down as well, it was Vernyhor who came through into fourth place just behind the Kenyan.
The Polish 1-2 was not under threat. Stefanowicz maintained the lead until the finish to win in a personal best of 2:29:28.
The time completed a great comeback for the 34-year-old, whose only previous sub-2:30 dated back to 2003. In addition to winning the women’s race and the national title, she also claimed a Ford Fiesta for being the first athlete overall across the line (the women’s elite started more than 18 minutes before the men).
Mierzejewska comfortably defended the second place with 2:30:55, a lifetime best by more than two-and-a-half minutes. Vernyhor came through for third in 2:31:34, with Arusei, Harun and Abebe filling the next positions.
Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF