Ethiopia’s Mosinet Geremew out-raced defending champion Nguse Amlosom at the 2015 Yangzhou Jianzhen International Half Marathon to set a Chinese all-comers’ record of 59:52 at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday (19).
Geremew’s winning mark broke the course record that Amlosom set last year and is the first sub-60-minute performance on Chinese soil.
In an exciting finish to the women’s race, Flomena Cheyech finished just one second ahead of Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa to win in 1:08:36, the second-fastest time in the 10-year history of the race.
Running under cloudy and cool conditions, the pace was fast from the start of the men’s race, with a leading pack of 16 passing the 2km mark in 6:09 and 4km in 11:37. The leading group was trimmed to 12 when passing 10km in 28:37 and then to nine runners at 15km, reached in 42:42.
After 16km, a five-man group started to pace the race with Vincent Yator leading in front. The Kenyan tried to pull away with frequent changes of speed but only Ethiopian cross-country champion Tamirat Tola dropped back.
The quartet was almost shoulder-to-shoulder at the 20km mark but Geremew’s powerful home stretch determined the outcome of the race and he eventually crossed the finish line in 59:52.
It was the second victory this year for the 23-year-old, having won the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in February in 1:00:05. His winning time in Yangzhou is his second-fastest time to date, just 41 seconds slower than his personal best of 59:11 set last November when he finished third in New Delhi.
“I am happy because I am the winner,” said Geremew. “The competition is very hard and there are a lot of strong runners participating. It is very fast.”
The top four finishers all ran faster than an hour, beating the previous course record of 1:00:08 set by Amlosom in 2014.
Kenya’s Geoffrey Kirui, the 2012 world junior 10,000m bronze medallist, improved his PB by almost a minute to finish second in 59:55.
The 28-year-old Amlosom, the 2012 African 10,000m champion, was given the same time was Kirui but was caught on the line and had to settle for third place for the second time in as many months, having finished third in Venlo last month.
Although narrowly missing the podium, Yator, who also clocked 59:55, could find some consolation in the fact that he set another PB, his third of 2015 over the half-marathon distance.
Tola, the sixth-place finisher at the recent IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, also improved his PB by more than one minute to finish fifth in 1:00:08.
Cheyech catches Degefa
The women’s competition was also a thriller that witnessed a series of exchanges of lead in the final kilometre between Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa and Kenya’s Flomena Cheyech, the only two sub-68-minute women in the field.
The 32-year-old Cheyech surpassed Degefa in the last 100m and maintained the advantage to the finish line to come home in 1:08:36. Only last year’s winner and course record-holder Gladys Cherono has ever run faster in Yangzhou.
“I have never competed in China, and I am very happy to win,” said Cheyech, the Paris Marathon champion and Commonwealth Games champion.
Cheyech’s winning time is nearly one minute shy of her PB of 1:07:39, set when she claimed the title at the 2013 Roma-Ostia Half Marathon.
The 24-year-old Degefa, who has enjoyed a flying start to the 2015 season after trimming 35 seconds off her PB to win in 1:07:14 at the Prague Half Marathon in March, trailed one second behind Cheyech to finish as the runner-up for the second consecutive year in Yangzhou, visibly disappointed to miss out once again.
Degefa’s compatriot Netsanet Gudeta, the bronze medallist at the World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, clocked 1:08:53 to finish third, while rising talent Purity Rionoripo continued her progress to finish fourth with a PB of 1:09:00, more than a minute faster than her previous PB of 1:10:24 set in Lisbon last month.
Ethiopian Abebech Afework and Kenya’s Gladys Chesir Kiptagelai also rewrote their PBs to finish fifth (1:09:14) and sixth (1:09:17) respectively.
He Yinli finished 10th in 1:11:48, the best result achieved by local runners.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF