Beijing (AP) –  Mare Dibaba won the first women’s marathon title for Ethiopia at the world championships Sunday, holding off Helah Kiprop of Kenya in a sprint to the finish.

Dibaba finished in 2 hours, 27 minutes, 35 seconds, but needed to pick up the pace after entering the stadium to beat Kiprop, who finished one second behind. Eunice Kirwa of Bahrain earned the bronze.

Two-time champion Edna Kiplagat was in contention until the end but faded to fifth place.

In the shadow of the Bird’s Nest, Dibaba kept checking her watch. Then, she made her move and raised her arms after crossing the line.

On other news, Risa Shigetomo of Japan and Kim Hye Song of North Korea led a tightly bunched field halfway through Sunday’s marathon at the world championships.

There were 14 runners within a second of the lead, including two-time defending champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya. American runner Serena Burla was three seconds back on a cloudy morning.

The air quality wasn’t exactly conducive to running a marathon, with it starting at the “moderate” level and falling into the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” range.

The women’s marathon at the world championships began Sunday under hazy skies and with the air quality listed at a “moderate” level.

Edna Kiplagat of Kenya is chasing a third straight title.

The weather is supposed to be about 21 degrees Celsius (70 degree Fahrenheit) with overcast conditions. The men’s marathon to start the championships was clear and the U.S. Embassy Beijing Air Quality Monitor listed the air quality as “good” for the race.

The “moderate” level means that “unusually sensitive individuals may experience respiratory symptoms.”

Source: ABD 33/40
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