Ethiopian Rahma Tusa won a third straight title at ACEA Rome Marathon on Sunday (8), clocking 2:23:46 at this IAAF Silver Label road race.
Kenyan Cosmas Birech took the honours in the men’s race improving his personal best with 2:08:03.
In the women’s contest 2011 world bronze medallist and 2012 Boston Marathon winner Sharon Cherop set off at a fast pace, opening up a gap of 30 seconds over Tusa by five kilometres. But Tusa and debutante Dalila Abdulkadir caught Cherop 12 kilometres later.
Tusa went through the halfway mark in 1:11:19 with a 10-second lead over Cherop. She then ran alone against the clock in the second half of the race to cross the finish line unchallenged. Her winning time was the second fastest in race history behind only Galina Bogomolova's 2:22:53 Italian all-comers record set in 2008. Tusa also improved her previous best of 2:25:12 set in Guangzhou in 2017. Tusa's three-peat equalled that of her compatriot Firehiwot Dado, who collected victories in Rome in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Abdulkadir reached the finish three minutes later to finish second in 2:26:46 ahead of Kenya’s Alice Jepkemboi Kibor, who set a personal best of 2:28:19. Cherop was fourth in 2:29:26.
Tusa and Abdulkadir train together in Addis Ababa and are coached by Haji Adilo.
“I came to Rome with the goal to win for the third time and I was confident before the race," Tusa said. "It was probably my easiest win in Rome, although my preparation did not go according to plans. I never feared when Cherop launched her attack. Next autumn I would like to run in New York and equal my friend Firehiwot Dado, who won there in 2011 after finishing first in Rome."
The men’s race also set off at a fast pace. The leading group went through five kilometres in 14:56, 10 in 29:58, and 15 in 44:58 before reaching the midway point in 1:03:18, inside course record pace.
The tempo then slowed over the next ten kilometres. Then in the 31st kilometre Birech made a move with only Ethiopia’s Dejene Debela Gonfa and Ibrahim Abdo Abdi of Bahrain maintaining contact. Two kilometres later Gonfa was the first to drift back.
Birech then launched his decisive attack, breaking away from Abdi at 40 kilometres before wrapping up a near half-minute victory. His winning performance cut 42 seconds from his previous best of 2:08:45 he set in Eindhoven in 2017.
Abdi improved his personal best by more than three minutes clocking 2:08:32 for second in his second marathon. Paul Kangogo completed the all-Kenyan podium finishing third with his personal best of 2:09:20.
Birech, a father of three, lives and trains in Iten where he is coached by Joseph Cheromei. He is the elder brother of 3000m steeplechase star Jairus Birech, who finished fourth at the 2015 World Championships and won the Diamond League in 2014.
“I am very happy with this win," Birech said. "I am sorry that the pace slowed down a bit. At 35 kilometres I suffered from a foot injury but this did not affect my race. At 40-k I realised that Abdi was struggling and I pushed the pace."
About 14,000 runners took part in the marathon. No less than 80,000 people entered the non-competitive 5km Run Fun.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF