As the rain cascaded down on runners alongside Morocco’s Atlantic Coast, Ethiopia made it a double at the Safi International Half-Marathon on Sunday morning (7) – Getaneh Molla and Meseret Belete Tola taking respective victories in 1:03:01 and 1:13:27.
It was the first time the race was staged since 2011, and amid a raucous atmosphere at the finish – stirred up throughout the morning by local drumming bands and dancers – crowds were treated to two close finishes that provided major upsets over the demanding course.
In the men’s race, Molla came home a winner by just two seconds, the Ethiopian powering away from Bahrain’s El Hassan El Abbassi on the downhill run to the finish.
When crossing the line, the Ethiopian slipped on the wet finishing mats and crashed to the ground, but appeared unharmed when walking to the podium later to receive his trophy.
“It was hard, with the course and the weather,” said Molla. “I waited until the last kilometre because my speed is good.”
El Abbassi came home a close second in 1:03:03, with Kenya’s Josphat Kipchirchir rounding out the podium in 1:03:08. Pre-race favourite Abraham Cheroben of Bahrain, who clocked 58:40 at the Copenhagen Half-Marathon last September, ran with the leaders to halfway but dropped out soon after, and the 25-year-old was limping when he eventually arrived at the finish
In the women’s event Rose Chelimo, the women’s marathon gold medallist at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London, found neither the slow pace nor the testing conditions to her liking. In a race that boiled down to a burn-up over the last mile, she came home just fourth in 1:13:30.
Ethiopian teenager Meseret Belete Tola took a narrow victory in 1:13:27, just inches ahead of Bahrain’s Dalilah Abdelkadir Gosa (1:13:28). It was Tola’s first time racing outside Ethiopia, and proved a memorable day for the 18-year-old. “It’s the biggest win of my life,” she said later through an interpreter.
The podium was rounded out by Celestine Chepchirchir, who came home in 1:13:29, one second ahead of Chelimo, who revealed that her main targets for 2018 will be the London Marathon in April and the Asian Games marathon in August. “I’m expecting to achieve a lot this year,” she said. “London is the most competitive race. There are many athletes there but I’m trying my best to at least run well.”
Organisers for the IAAF
1. Getaneh Molla (ETH) 1:03:01
2. El Hassan El Abbassi (BRN) 1:03:03
3. Josphat Kipchirchir (KEN) 1:03:08
4. Gizachu Hailu (ETH) 1:03:13
5. Toufik Al Allam (MAR) 1:03:15
6. Youssef Ben Hadi (MAR) 1:03:40
7. Adane Wuletaw Belete (ETH) 1:03:50
8. Micah Cheserek (KEN) 1:04:20
9. Abedaw Bayeh Mengitsu (ETH) 1:04:30
10. Debela Delessa (ETH) 1:05:06
1. Meseret Belete Tola (ETH) 1:13:27
2. Dalilah Abdelkadir Gosa (BRN) 1:13:28
3. Celestine Chepchirchir (KEN) 1:13:29
4. Rose Chelimo (BRN) 1:13:30
5. Zenebe Debebe Getachu (ETH) 1:13:34
6. Haven Hailu (ETH) 1:14:37
7. Zinash Debebe (ETH) 1:15:04
8. Bouasria Keltoum (MAR) 1:17:06
9. Jamila Khizami (MAR) 1:18:09
10. Samira Ahbouch (MAR) 1:20:20