Mesfin Alemu of Ethiopia was an impressive winner in the inaugural edition of the Ibuprom Sport Zel Half Marathon in Lodz on Sunday (16). The warm and breezy conditions were not conducive to fast times, but Alemu led for most of the distance to finish the clear victor in 1:03:17.
Hillary Maiyo of Kenya and Emanuel Berhame of Ethiopia completed the podium with 1:03:41 and 1:03:52 respectively.
Agnieszka Gortel of Poland was the women's winner with 1:16:10, after the three leaders of the race were misdirected in the closing kilometres and did not finish the race.
In the DOZ Lodz Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label race, taking place simultaneously, Tarekegn Zewdu of Ethiopia prevailed in 2:19:41 after a close battle against his compatriot Asmare Workneh. Rodgers Kipchirchir of Kenya took third place, more than two minutes behind the winner.
Jane Kiptoo was the runaway winner of the women's marathon in 2:43:08.
Alemu ran away from the field early in the half marathon race. By the time he reached the 10-kilometre point in 29:18, he was already a full 23 seconds ahead of the second-placed Maiyo, with Berhame and Yonas Yakob of Eritrea another 23 seconds in arrears.
Alemu's lead kept on growing. After another five kilometres, it was up to 40 seconds over Maiyo and more than a minute over the next two.
The windy conditions eventually took their toll on the leader, who started to look over his shoulder in the final stages of the race. But, although his rivals started to close, Alemu's victory was never in doubt.
The Ethiopian broke the tape in 1:03:17. Maiyo, in runner-up position, finished with 1:03:41.
Finishing fastest of all was Berhame, who ended up in third, only 11 seconds behind the Kenyan, with Yakob in fourth timed in 1:04:15.
In the women's race, the Kenyan duo of Alice Kimutai and Christine Oigo took control from the start, with Meseret Merine of Ethiopia running in third.
After only a few kilometres, Kimutai decided to take matters into her own hands. Ten kilometres and 34:17 into the race, her lead was already 11 seconds.
But, instead of giving up, Oigo fought her way back. Before long, she caught her compatriot and immediately started to pull away. By the time she reached the 15-kilometre point, she, in turn, was 10 seconds clear.
Meanwhile, Agnieszka Gortel was running in fourth, well back behind the three leaders.
However, when the runners reached the indoor finish in Atlas Arena, the three Africans were nowhere to be seen. While it wasn't immediately clear what happened, it appeared they took a wrong turn on the course.
With none of the three finishing the race, Gortel was the clear winner in 1:16:10, a full 11 minutes ahead of the next finisher.
The men's marathon turned into a three-way battle from the start. Asmare Workneh, Rodgers Kipchirchir and Tarekegn Zewdu shared the lead, maintaining steady pace with splits of 33:03 at 10 kilometres, 1:06:11 at 20 kilometres and 1:39:15 at 30 kilometres.
The three continued together all the way until 38 kilometres. It was at that point that Kipchirchir started losing, leaving the Ethiopians to fight it out.
The battle was not decided until the final kilometre of the race. In the end, it was the less heralded Zewdu who came through to break the tape in 2:19:41.
Workneh repeated his runner-up finish from last year, finishing 12 seconds behind the winner.
Kipchirchir slowed down significantly in the closing stages of the race, but he held on for third in 2:21:50, his second podium finish in Lodz after second place in 2016.
Jane Kiptoo was the runaway winner of the women's marathon. With no serious competition, she started with a 37:10, already some four and a half minutes ahead at this point. She maintained similar pace with 1:14:57 at 20 kilometres.
The Kenyan slowed down in the second half of the race, but her victory was never in any doubt. With her time of 2:43:08, Kiptoo took the race by 18 minutes from Natalia Mierzlikin of Poland.
Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF