Running alone for the last eight kilometres, Kenya’s Chemtai Rionotukei broke the women’s course record by 16 seconds to win the Taiyuan International Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race, in the western Chinese city on Sunday (10).
The 31-year-old crossed the line in 2:29:36, beating the course record of 2:29:52 set by compatriot Emmah Muthoni Kiruki at the first edition of the race in 2010.
“The weather is good,” said Rionotukei. “And the course is very good because we were going around the city and the audience were always cheering for us.”
“I was satisfied with the result. It is my fifth time to come to China and my third marathon in China,” added Rionotukei, who won the 2016 Dongguan Marathon in 2:34:38 and improved her personal best to 2:26:30 to finish second at the 2017 Yellow River Estuary International Marathon in Dongying.
Rionotukei hid in a leading group of nine runners for the first 10 kilometres. When they hit the 20-kilometre mark, only four were left. After another seven kilometres, only Rionotukei and Ethiopia’s marathon debutant Jabore Tigist Abayechew remained in front.
But for the final eight kilometres, Rionotukei enjoyed a comfortable sole lead, occasionally looking back from time to time to check the position of her rivals.
Stretching her fingers up towards the sky as she hit the finish, Rionotukei celebrated her fourth consecutive podium finish in two years.
Abayechew, who set a half marathon PB of 1:09:18 in Xiamen last year, lagged 35 seconds behind to finish second.
Ethiopia’s Ayelu Abebe Hordofa, who achieved a career best of 2:29:17 to win this year’s Wuxi Marathon, came home as a remote third finisher in 2:34:51.
Unlike the women’s race, which lacked suspense in the final stages, the outcome of the men’s race was only decided in the last 400 meters.
Ethiopia’s Azmeraw Bekele, the race’s fastest entrant, lived up to expectations. He emerged triumphant from a three-man battle thanks to his powerful home-stretch dash, claiming the title in 2:12:49.
It is the first marathon victory for Bekele, a team bronze medallist at the 2010 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. But his winning mark is nearly three minutes shy of the 2:08:51 course record set by his compatriot Tolcha Berhanu Shiferaw in 2012 and five minutes slower than his PB of 2:07:12 set when finishing fifth at the 2014 Dubai Marathon.
A group of 12 runners paced the race for the first 10 kilometres and after the midway mark the leaders were trimmed to eight.
Bekele launched his first charge after 30 kilometres. Although he was soon caught by the chasers, only five men – including Bekele, defending champion Evans Sambu, Qatari sub-2:08 runner Essa Ismail Rashed, Kenya’s Andrew Kimutai and Kenneth Kiplagat Limo, the third-place finisher last year – remained in the leading group after 31km.
Rashed was the first to slow down, and then Limo was left behind when Sambu decided to start his charge after 38 kilometres. The leading trio remained together until Bekele pulled away for the win in the final 400 metres.
Kimutai finished second in 2:12:53 for his second podium finish of 2017, six months after finishing third in Chongqing in a PB of 2:10:22 having started the race as a pacemaker.
Sambu, who turned 24 last month, clocked 2:13:03 to finish third, 1:29 shy of the winning time he achieved in Taiyuan last year.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF