After Kenenisa Bekele Falters, Tamirat Tola Becomes 9th Fastest Marathoner Ever

tamirat-tola-dubaiA fall at the start of race doomed Bekele’s record attempt, opening the door to countryman Tola

Before it ever really started, Kenenisa Bekele’s attempt at the marathon world record was over on Friday in Dubai when he tripped seconds after the start and fell to the ground. He got back up, but his body was too shaken to sustain the pace he needed to reach his goal—faster than 4:41 per mile.

Bekele, 34, of Ethiopia, was in the lead pack of about a dozen men until about 14K. The group was running well faster than Dennis Kimetto’s world record of 2:02:57 at that point. But by 20K Bekele was more than a minute behind the leaders, who went through halfway in 1:01:33. Around 22K, clutching his left leg, Bekele stepped to the side of the road and dropped out of the race.

Bekele, who owns world records in the 5,000 meters (12:37.35) and 10,000 meters (26:17:53), told the International Association of Athletics Federations that he went into the Dubai Marathon with the same fitness he had at the 2016 Berlin Marathon, where he finished in 2:03:03, the second-fastest marathon of all time.

“But after a hard fall just after the start, my body was out of balance and I got cramps in my left calf trying to run at world record pace,” he said. “I like to prepare for many scenarios, but this was definitely not one of them.”

After Bekele was no longer a factor, Tamirat Tola, 25, also from Ethiopia, was the only competitor able to stay with the pacemaker, who took him through the 30K mark within one second of the world record. After the pacer stepped off the course, Tola, who won the 2016 Olympic bronze medal in the 10,000 meters, slowed, though he still maintained a minute gap on the field.

Tola won in 2:04:11, breaking the course record of 2:04:23, set in 2012 by Ayele Abshero. He became the ninth-fastest marathoner ever. It was also Tola’s personal best by more than two minutes—his previous mark was 2:06:17, set in Dubai two years ago. For the win, he took home $200,000.

 “The pace was very fast at the start,” Tola said. “But when we found that Kenenisa was well behind, I became more confident. I’m happy to win, but I think I could have run under 2:04.”

Behind Tola were fellow Ethiopians Mule Wasihun (second in 2:06:46) and Sisay Lemma (third in 2:08:04). Three Ethiopians also topped the women’s race with Worknesh Degefa first (2:22:36), Shure Demise second (2:22:57), and Yebrgual Melese third (2:23:13).

Bekele is scheduled to compete at the London Marathon in April. He was not selected to the Ethiopian Olympic team in 2016 but has won three gold medals and a silver in previous Games. He also is a six-time world champion in outdoor and indoor track and an 11-time world cross country champion.

Bekele is also involved with the Sub2 Project, an effort started by Yannis Pitsiladis, a professor of sports science at the University of Brighton in England, to apply cutting-edge science and medicine to expedite the chances of the world’s best marathoners breaking two hours at the distance.

Source: Runnersworld.

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