HONG KONG (eNCA)―Ethiopia’s Gulume Tollesa successfully defended her title at the Hong Kong Marathon with a course record of 2:29:37, while 44-year-old Kenneth Mungara of Kenya beat opponents half his age to win the IAAF Gold Label road race in 2:13:39 on Sunday.

Gulume Tollesa started with the intention of retaining her title, but the 25-year-old also had one eye on the course record of 2:30:12, set six years ago by compatriot Misiker Demissie. Joined by a small handful of athletes, Gulume passed through 10 kilometers in 34:45 before reaching halfway in 1:14:22, suggesting a finishing time within 2:30 was possible.

The lead pack of Gulume, fellow Ethiopians Meskerem Assefa, Fantu Jimma, Betelhem Moges, Meseret Legesse and Kenya’s Lucy Kabuu stayed together for another 10 kilometers, passing the 30-kilometre point in 1:47:09.

Betelhem and Meseret were the first of those to fade, shortly followed by Lucy Kabuu. The remaining trio – Gulume Tollesa, Meskerem Assefa and Meseret Jimma – ran together for another 20 minutes before Jimma began to drift back, leaving Gulume Tollesa and Meskerem Assefa out in front.

Gulume proved to be the strongest in the closing stages as she pulled ahead to win in 2:29:37, six minutes shy of the PB she set when winning the 2015 Frankfurt Marathon. Meskerem, the Rotterdam Marathon champion, finished five seconds adrift, while Fantu was third in 2:30:10. All three women finished inside the previous course record.

“I was very prepared for this marathon but the weather conditions made it difficult,” Gulume Tollesa told the South China Morning Post. “The wind was challenging to run in, there were a few ups and downs. In general, it was OK. I’m very happy to have won last year and again this year.”

Ethiopian runners filled the top five places with Betelhem finishing fourth (2:30:54) and Meseret placing fifth (2:31:00). Lucy Kabuu, the fastest woman in the field but contesting her first marathon for three years, finished sixth in 2:31:21.

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