Kenya’s Felix Kimutai and Afera Godfay of Ethiopia raced to course records at the Yellow River Estuary International Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race, in the Chinese city of Dongying on Saturday.
Contesting his first race in China, the 30-year-old Kimutai pulled clear with six kilometres to go to secure the victory in 2:09:23, beating the course record of 2:09:27 set by compatriot Dickson Kipsang Tuwei in 2016.
His performance also improved his previous best of 2:09:57 set during his victory in Istanbul last year.
A lead group of 15 covered the opening 10km in 30:49, a pack reduced to 11 at 15km and further cut to 11 runners at 25km.
Six kilometres later, Morocco’s Hicham Laqouahi, who bettered his PB to 2:08:35 with his victory at the Oita Mainichi Marathon in Beppu two months ago, made the first move. Although he was soon caught by the chase pack, the sudden change of pace forced four men to drop back.
When they reached the 35km water tables in 1:47:56, only four remained in contention: Laqouahi, Kimutai, Ethiopia’s Fikadu Kebede and Dominic Ruto of Kenya.
Kimutai waited for another 1500m before launching his decisive move for the lead. He was 10 seconds ahead of course record pace at 40km (2:02:50) and continued to push until breaking the tape in style with his finger pointing high towards the sky.
Kebede, a past winner of the Rabat Marathon with a 2:08:27 PB, finished second 15 seconds behind the winner in 2:09:38, while the 28-year-old Ruto finished third in 2:09:43, 35 second shy of his lifetime best set in Rome two years ago.
The top two finishers in the women’s race both beat the course record of 2:24:45 set by two-time winner Letebrhan Haylay last year.
Solid 2:22:41 Run for Godfay
The 27-year-old Godfay outraced race favourite Waganesh Mekasha to celebrate her first marathon title since debuting over the classic distance in 2015. Godfay also bettered her career best of 2:23:45 from the fourth finish in Shanghai last year with a winning mark of 2:22:41.
A pack of seven paced the race in the early stages, passing 10km in 34:05 and 15km in 51:01. The 27-year-old Mekasha, who owns a fast PB of 2:22:45 set at the Dubai Marathon in January, tried to pull away after the half way point with only Godfay managing to keep up.
The Ethiopian duo ran neck-and-neck for some ten kilometres before Mekasha had to hand over the lead.
The in-form Godfay left no chance to her rivals. She kept pushing on, extending her advantage until wrapping up the convincing victory.
Mekasha clocked 2:23:19 to finish second in the first race in which she didn’t improve on her PB since her victory at the Singapore Marathon in 2014.
Kenya’s Truphena Chepchirchir was a distant third clocking 2:27:52, improving her PB by 19 seconds.
The 13th edition of the race, which was usually held in May, was staged under cool and breezy conditions with the temperature ranging from 13-19 degrees and the humidity remaining around 50 percent.