Sisay Lemma improved his personal best by 40 seconds when the Ethiopian won the Frankfurt Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, in 2:06:26 on Sunday (25).
In a thrilling finish, three men entered the final kilometer together but Lemma then had enough in reserve to pull away from his Kenyan rivals Lani Rutto and Alfers Lagat, who were second and third in 2:06:34 and 2:06:48 respectively.
Both the Kenyan runners also set personal bests.
However, the biggest cheers of the day were reserved for the man who finished fourth, Germany’s Arne Gabius.
He brought 27 years of waiting to an end with his time of 2:08:33, which took 14 seconds off the German record set by Jorg Peter in 1988.
Gabius now 34, also set a personal best, running 59 seconds faster than his impressive debut in the same race a year ago and clocked the fastest time by a European runner this year.
A big group of 17 men, who enjoyed very good weather conditions as temperatures hovered around 13-15 degrees Celsius with overcast skies and no wind, reached the half way mark in 1:03:22.
Gabius initially lost contact with the leading group just after 25km and it started to look doubtful that he could break Peters’ long standing mark. By contrast, at 28km Lemma told the Kenyan pacemaker Wilfred Kigen to work harder and the pair pulled away from the chasing pack.
At 30km, passed in 1:29:33 and just before Kigen dropped out, Lemma had a 24-second advantage over a Kenyan quartet comprised of Lagat, Rutto, Norbert Kigen and Suleiman Simotwo.
Lemma passed 35km in 1:44:26 and still had 20 seconds to spare over Rutto and Lagat, who were working together to chase down their Ethiopian rival and had broken away from the rest of the challengers while, further back, Gabius had recovered from his bad patch and was starting to steadily move through the field.
Four kilometers from the finish, Lagat and Rutto managed to regain contact with Lemma before the latter again surged with just a kilometer to go. “I am very happy with the win, but I really wanted to run a time of 2:05,” reflected the winner.#
Gabius was understandably exhausted but elated after his record performance. “The second half was damn hard. Now I know what a marathon really means. There were times when I didn’t think I was going to get the record.”
Gulume Tollesa emerged as a surprise winner of the women’s title in 2:23:12 as Ethiopian runners made a clean sweep of the podium places.
Tollesa ran a personal best by over six minutes to beat Dinkinesh Mekash in a sprint to the line in Frankfurt’s Festhalle.
Mekash was credited with the same time while their compatriot Koren Jelela continued her return after maternity with a fine third place in 2:23:52.
The three Ethiopians ran together after leaving the rest of their rivals behind just after 30km, which was passed in 1:41:36. Jelela then drifted out of contention for the victory a little under two kilometres from home.
“I thought I could finish among the first three since my training had gone very well but I never dreamed I would win,” reflected a delighted Tollesa.
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