Ezekiel Omullo of Kenya and Nastassia Ivanova were the winners at the sixth edition of the Orlen Warsaw Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label road race, on Sunday (22).
No records were set on a warm and windy morning, but both races provided plenty of excitement.
Omullo scored his third marathon victory in Warsaw, after two prior wins in the autumn PZU Warsaw Marathon. He pulled away from Ethiopian Herpasa Negasa and fellow Kenyan Felix Kimutai in the final few kilometres for a clear victory in 2:11:17. Kimutai, the defending champion, took the runner-up position, with Negasa finishing third.
After a thrilling battle against Ethiopia’s Azmera Abreha, Ivanova became the first repeat winner in the history of the race. Well behind for the majority of the race, the Belarussian came from behind in the final kilometre to win by four seconds in 2:28:03. Poland’s Izabela Trzaskalska, last year's runner-up, finished third, more than four minutes behind the lead duo.
An 11-man leading group, including two designated pacemakers and most of the pre-race favourites, formed soon after the start of the men's race. The early pace was conservative, with 15:42 at five kilometres and 31:26 at 10 kilometres.
The leaders continued at a steady pace and the composition of the leading group remained unchanged through 15 kilometres at 46:57 and 20 kilometres at 1:02:28, with several chasers still in touch.
Once the pack reached the halfway point, the action started in earnest. By the 25-kilometre mark, the leading group was down to six: defending champion Felix Kimutai and Ezekiel Omullo of Kenya, Herpasa Negasa and Sisay Yajew of Ethiopia, Morocco's Jaouad Tougane and a sole Polish representative, Yared Shegumo.
Soon after, it was down to three. With 1:33:30 at 30 kilometres, only Kimutai, Omullo and Negasa were left to fight it out for the win, with Tougane the closest follower 10 seconds back.
The top three were content to run together for another 25 minutes, until, some four kilometres before the finish, Omullo decided to move it up a gear.
Within a few hundred metres, the Kenyan moved clear. The move proved decisive and from then on, the gap between him and the other two just kept on growing.
Omullo had time to celebrate on the final stretch of the race, before he broke the tape in a time of 2:11:17.
More than a hundred metres back, Kimutai and Negassa were left to fight it out for second. In the end, the Kenyan came through with 2:11:41, with Negasa reaching the finish five seconds later.
There was then a significant gap behind the top three. Tougane was the next to make it to the finish line with 2:13:35, followed by Tola with 2:13:47.
In sixth place at 2:13:53, Shegumo took the second national marathon title of his career. He was joined on the national championships podium by Mariusz Gizynski, eighth overall in the race in 2:15:17, and Arkadiusz Gardzielewski, ninth in 2:15:57.
The women's race started off at a fast pace, with an all-Ethiopian trio breaking off from the rest of the field early on. Ayantu Gemechu, Azmera Abreha and Meseret Kitata were already 15 seconds ahead as they reached the five-kilometre point in 17:18.
After another few kilometres, the trio became a duo, as Kitata was dropped. With a 10-kilometre split of 34:23, the advantage of the top two was up to 45 seconds, with Ayelu Abebe, Nastassia Ivanova and Kitata forming the second group.
The situation, and the pace, remained largely unchanged, with the leaders timed at 51:35 at the 15-kilometre point. With 1:09:01 at 20 kilometres, Gemechu and Abreha were 52 seconds ahead. Behind them, Ivanova was pushing the pace and starting to pull away slightly from her rivals.
It was soon after halfway that things started to heat up. At the head of the race, Abreha was left the solitary leader. By the time she got to the 25-kilometre point in 1:26:30, she was nine seconds ahead of her compatriot. Ivanova was now going the fastest of the field, reducing the distance to the leader to 42 seconds, with the next two Ethiopians another half a minute back.
Abreha's lead grew significantly in the next several minutes. She was still maintaining a strong pace with 1:44:09 at 30 kilometres, while a crisis hit the other Ethiopians. Ivanova went easily past Gemechu to go into second, now 49 seconds back on the leader, but a full minute ahead of third place.
Abreha was a clear leader, but her advantage was starting to melt. At 35 kilometres, timed in 2:02:08, she was still 39 seconds ahead. At 40 kilometres, her lead was down to 17 seconds, but it seemed like the gap was still sufficient to carry her to a win.
Ivanova, though, was now closing with every step. With a kilometre to go, she was within striking distance. After another few hundred meters, she was right on the Ethiopian's shoulder. Finally, with just 500 meters left, she overtook Abreha.
The Ethiopian was unable to respond to the attack. Ivanova started to pull away and broke the tape in 2:28:03, with Abreha finishing four seconds later.
With the other Ethiopian women fading in the second half, it was the Poles who came through. Izabela Trzaskalska's conservative opening paid off, as she became the only elite woman in the race to run a negative split and took third in 2:32:26, just inside the European Championships qualifying mark set by the Polish federation.
Aleksandra Lisowska followed her home, taking fourth place in 2:33:13, a personal best by nearly seven minutes. Abebe was well back in fifth place in 2:35:16.
Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF