Marathons can be won in lost in many different ways. Shami Dawit of Ethiopia and Rael Kiyara of Kenya employed a similar tactic to win the men’s and women’s races at the 27th Haspa Marathon Hamburg this morning, attacking between 30 and 40 kilometres, and breaking both course records, with 2.05.58 and 2.23.47.
The big difference though was that Dawit was already close to the lead at the three-quarter mark, and ran away at pace to win by over a minute; whereas Kiyara was a minute behind at 30k, and closed on her runaway rivals like an avenging angel, putting them to the sword just after 40k, and winning by half a minute. They were both mightily impressive runs, on a windy morning that threatened to ruin the organisers’ hopes of giving their new committee the kudos of good results.
They needn’t have worried. As soon as Dawit and Kiyara got into gear, Julio Rey’s 2.06.52 from 2006, and Irina Timofeyeva’s 2.24.14 from 2008 were destined for the dustbin of history. Dawit was ten seconds shy of his best, in Dubai three months ago, but given the respective conditions, this was an infinitely superior run, and two sub-2.06’s in succession contributes to the resurgence of Ethiopian marathoning. Kiyara flew the flag for the Kenyan rivals with close to two minutes improvement on her previous best.
For a city that boasts one day’s rain in three, this was fortunately one of the other two days, though the wind off the North Sea did threaten proceedings. But a group of 15 men and a half dozen women through the first half helped dissipate that, and with the breeze at their back over the final kilometres, both winners said they barely noticed the wind.
Dawit waiting for his moment in the sun, and when it came, he had plenty of time to savour it. He had finished one second behind his colleague Dadi Yami in Dubai, and that one second seemed to convince everyone that Yami was the big favourite here. He certainly played that role throughout the first half of the race, ignoring the pacemakers and going to the front himself. But Dawit, who had sat quietly through press conferences while Yami was lionised by press and TV alike, surged silently to his colleague’s shoulder at 30k, and then proceeded to run 29.07 for the next 10k, and leave Yami in the dust. Yami nonetheless underlined his good run in Dubai (2.05.41) by finishing second, in 2.07.01, and Kenyan Augustine Ronoh(sic) was third, in 2.07.23.
Kiyara played a waiting game. While her young colleague Valentine Kipketer raced through the half in 1.10.24, with Netsanet Abeyo right behind, Kiyara was adrift by herself in seventh place in 1.11.43. But a few kilometres later, as the field fell apart in front of her, she picked up the pieces, moving into third by 30k. Although still a minute behind, she said afterwards, that was the point she thought she might win.
“The others started much too quickly,” she said, “so I decided to run my own pace. I didn’t think I had a chance to win until I started seeing the leaders after 30k. But I wasn’t sure, it was only when I passed the Ethiopian at 40k that I thought I was going to win”. Abeyo held on to finish second in 2.24.12, just under the old record, and her colleague Etalamehu Kidane was third in 2.5.49.
Hamburg has suffered from internal rivalries and lost sponsors in recent years, falling off from a pre-eminent place in both German and international marathons, but with a new young team, and a couple of course records to their credit, this looks like a turning point.