Pre-race favourite Lemi Berhanu of Ethiopia lived up to expectations to register a convincing victory in the men’s race while his compatriot Waganesh Mekasha rallied to take the women’s title at the 2018 Hengshui Lake International Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label road race, in Hengshui, China, on Saturday (29).
Berhanu clocked 2:08:51 while Mekasha upset a strong field in 2:25:57, a lifetime best.
Berhanu was the star attraction in the field, with a personal best of 2:04:33 from the 2016 Dubai Marathon and with marathon titles from Boston, Dubai, Xiamen and Zurich under his belt. It was his first appearance in Hengshui and the 24-year-old stayed in the leading group patiently for the first half of the race before making his move near 30 kilometres.
He broke clear for a sole lead and soon extended the margin to more than 20 metres. When he reached the 36 kilometres mark in 1:48:40, Berhanu was still well on track to challenge the course record of 2:07:38 set by Ethiopian Markos Geneti in 2014.
However, it seemed Berhanu’s focus was just on the win instead of the record. With a comfortable lead in hand, Berhanu eased down in the final kilometres. Running relaxed, he even started his celebration on the home stretch, breaking the tape in 2:08:51 with a smile on his face.
It was Berhanu’s third marathon victory in China following his 2:13:10 win at the 2014 Taiyuan Marathon and the 2:08:27 victory in Xiamen last year.
Herpasa Negasa, another Ethiopian, finished second in 2:09:14, improving his career best by 63 seconds. Kenya’s Dominic Ruto finish third in 2:09:49, which is 41 seconds slower than his PB set in Rome last year.
The 26-year-old Mekasha upset a quality field, which included sub-2:25 runners Workenesh Edesa of Ethiopia and Kenyan Caroline Kilel as well as past winner Meseret Legese..
Mekasha emerged triumphant from a two-woman duel in the last five kilometres. She and her countrywoman Edesa led the race to 38 kilometres before the 26-year-old Edesa, whose PB of 2:24:04 was set in her victory at the 2016 Xiamen International Marathon, pulled away and soon built an advantage of some 15 metres.
But Edesa didn’t enjoy the sole lead for long. Mekasha reeled in Edesa metre-by-metre and passed the latter at the 40 kilometre mark. Looking back to check Edesa’s position from time to time, Mekasha left no chance for her rival to turn the tables. She kept pushing ahead and wrapped up the victory with the second fastest winning time in the race’s seven-year history, 14 seconds shy of the 2:25:43 course record set by Kenya’s Agnes Jepkemboi Kiprop in 2015.
It was the second victory of the year over the classic distance for Mekasha and also the second time for her to improve her lifetime best in 2018. Five months ago the rising Ethiopian cut more than 17 minutes off her PB to win the Padova Marathon in 2:29:18. Since her marathon debut in Singapore in 2014, the efficient Mekasha, who was the fourth finisher in the U20 race at the 2011 World Cross Country Championships, has collecting three titles from four races.
Edesa finish second in 2:26:28, which was the first marathon she finished since she took the second place in Xiamen last January.
Gebiyanesh Ayele clocked 2:26:54, improving her PB by five and a half minutes, to complete a sweep of podium for Ethiopia. It is the first time for Ayele to dip under the 2:30 barrier whose previous PB of 2:32:25 was achieved from her third finish at the 2017 Guangzhou Marathon.