Lonah Chemtai Salpeter smashed the course record at the 35th ASICS Firenze Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race, on Sunday (25).
The reigning European 10,000m champion clocked 2:24:17 to clip nearly four minutes from the previous record of 2:28:15 set by Slovenia’s Helena Javornik in 2002. Her performance was also a national record for Israel, shattering the 2:35:59 standard set by Elena Dolinin in Berlin two years ago. Salpeter dominated the race, winning by more than six minutes over Kenyan Caroline Chepkwony.
Salpeter took the lead in the early stages, running with Gebiyanesh Gedamu from Ethiopia and Clementine Mukandanga from Rwanda, the trio passing 10 kilometres in 34:37 and 15 in 51:42.
Salpeter and Gedamu reached the halfway mark in 1:12:38, but the Israeli started pushing the pace, building a gap of eight seconds over Gedamu (1:26:04 to 1:26:12) by 25 kilometres.
Salpeter continued to pull away, extending her gap over Gedamu to one minute at 30 kilometres (1:43.16) and to more than four minutes five kilometres later, propelled by a 6:30 two-kilometre split between kilometres 33 and 35.
She covered the challenging second half in 1:11:39 for a negative split to smash her previous personal best by 16 minutes. Her 2:24:17 performance was the sixth fastest time ever run on Italian soil and the fastest by a European this year.
Salpeter set her previous best of 2:40:16 in Berlin in 2016, but recently showed good form with a half marathon PB of 1:07:55 in Lisbon in October. This year she made her breakthrough improving all her career best times on the track running the 3000m in 8:42.88, the 5000m in 15:17.81, the 10,000m in 31:33.03 at the European 10000m Cup in London last May. She won the 10000m European title in Berlin in 31:43.29.
“The crowd gave me strong support along the course,” said Salpeter, who grew up in Eldoret, Kenya, and moved to Israel in 2008. “I did not fear the rain, because I was ready with any condition. Firenze is the springboard event of my marathon career.”
Chepkwony clocked 2:30:46 for second ahead of Mukandanga who clocked 2:30:59 to knock nearly five minutes from her previous lifetime best. Croatia’s Nikolina Sustic improved her PB to 2:41:51, finishing fourth.
Convincing victory for Gelelchu
Ali Abdu Gelelchu of Bahrain made his debut over the distance a memorable one after his convincing 2:11:32 victory ahead of Morocco’s Hicham Boufars and Kenyan Gilbert Kirwa, the defending champion.
A five-men lead group formed by Rwandans Primien Manirafsha and Felicien Muhitra, Kenyans Abraham Kiplagat and Kirwa, a 2:06:14 performer Kirwa, and Bonsa Dida Direba of Ethiopia, passing 10 kilometres in 30:53 and 15 in 46:15 before reaching the halfway mark in 1:05:06.
Gelelchu, 21, began more patiently, running seven seconds behind the leaders at the midway point before catching up by 30 kilometres. He was joined by Moroccan Hicham Boufars, who, after running seventh at 25 kilometres, made up the gap by the 30th kilometre.
At 35 kilometres, the group was whittled down to four: Boufars, Direba, Kirwa and Gelelchu. Gelelchu then broke away, gradually building a 19-second lead over Boufars by 40 kilometres before cruising to the win.
Boufars was next in 2:12:16 with Kirwa a distant third, clocking 2:13:08.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF