Ethiopians dominate Chicago Marathon

Tsegaye Kebede smashes the men’s course record with 2:04:38, while Atsede Baysa prevails in a thrilling finish to the women’s race

Tsegaye Kebede (Mark Shearman)

Tsegaye Kebede made history by becoming the first Ethiopian winner of the men’s race in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon as well as becoming the first runner to break the 2:05-barrier on this course.

He clocked 2:04:38 as another Ethiopian, Atsede Baysa, took the women’s race in 2:22:03.

The 2010 London Marathon champion was always prominent as the leading group of 15 athletes passed through the halfway point in 62:54, which was identical to Moses Mosop’s split when he set the course record of 2:05:37 last year.

The leading pack momentarily fell off course-record pace through 25km in 1:14:34 (Mosop 1:14:15 last year), but Kebede soon started to test the leading group. While Mosop covered the 25-35km split in 29:01, Kebede brought the course record back into view with a sprightly 28:48 10km split.

The only athletes who could contend with Kebede’s injection of pace were team-mates Tilahun Regassa and Feyisa Lelisa as well as sub-59 half-marathoner Sammy Kitwara from Kenya, who was enjoying a much better run after dropping out on his debut in Rotterdam in April with a calf strain.

Regassa had a nibble at the lead just after 35km but he soon found himself cast adrift from the leaders along with Kitwara as Kebede maintained the pace through 40km in 1:58:02.

While Mosop covered 35-40km last year in 15:17, Kebede covered the previous 5km in 14:40 and the last 15km in 43:28. By this point, the leading duo were now 31 seconds under course-record pace and for the first time, sub-2:05 looked feasible.

Kebede soon forged a narrow gap over Lelisa, the world bronze medallist, at 41km and the 2008 Olympic marathon bronze medallist extended his advantage to 14 seconds. His second half was timed at 61:43, which would have sufficed for a top-six finish at yesterday’s World Half-marathon Championships!

Lelisa, who was a distant 10th in London last spring, finished second and comfortably inside the previous course record at 2:04:52 while Regassa’s 2:05:27 for third represented a great debut.

Kebede’s performance put further scrutiny on the decision by the Ethiopian selectors to exclude him from their Olympic marathon team.

Dathan Ritzenhein finally did himself justice over 26.2 miles as he improved his PB from 2:09:55 to 2:07:47 to finish as the leading American in ninth.

Baysa outlasts Jeptoo in exciting women’s tussle
Further success for Ethiopia came in the women’s race as former runner-up Atsede Baysa became just the second Ethiopian winner after Berhane Adere prevailed in 2006 and 2007.

Baysa was locked together with former Boston Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo as the finish-line approached, but the 25-year-old inched ahead of the Kenyan in the closing metres.

Even though her victory was by no means a clear-cut one, Baysa still put her arms aloft as she crossed the line in 2:22:04. Her time was then later rounded down to 2:22:03 which was an outright PB as she also ran 2:22:04 to win the Paris Marathon in 2010.

Despite the lack of noteworthy results in the immediate build-up, Jeptoo had the better of her compatriots as she finished second in a PB of 2:22:04 with sub-2:20 performer Lucy Kabuu third in 2:22:41.

Expectations on reigning three-time champion Liliya Shobukhova from Russia were not particularly high this year as she has been suffering from injuries all season. Under the circumstances, her fourth in 2:22:59 was a respectable showing.

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