Ethiopia’s Dejene Debela retais Xiamen Marathon Title Clocking 2:09:26

Ethiopia’s Dejene Debela emerged victorious from a five-man contest to retain his Xiamen Marathon title in 2:09:26 at the first IAAF Gold Label road race of the year on Sunday.

Compatriot Medina Deme Armino won the women’s race in 2:27:25. With their teammates filling the top three spots in both races, it was the third consecutive Ethiopian double podium sweep in Xiamen.

The tall and strong Debela, who will celebrate his 24th birthday on Wednesday, led the race almost from the start to the finish to become the first back-to-back men’s winner in the 17-year history of the race.

His winning mark of 2:09:26 is nearly two minutes faster than his clocking in Xiamen last year. It is also his second sub-2:10 performance to date, following his 2:07:10 PB set in Dubai two years ago.

The race, held in cloudy and cool conditions, started with a group of six runners leading the way, followed closely by seven chasers. When the leaders hit the 15-kilometer mark in 44:49, they were just four seconds away from the same split time of Moses Mosop when he set the 2:06:19 course record in 2015.

However, the leading pack that consisted of Debela and compatriot Birhan Nebebew as well as Kenyan trio Eliud Kiptanui, Asbel Kipsang and Gilbert Masai, slowed down gradually afterwards and was unable to drop the chasers.

Kipsang limped off the course after reaching 25 kilometers in 1:15:50 and had to withdraw from the race while the remaining four leaders were finally caught by the chasers before 29 kilometers.

After another eight kilometers, the lead group was once again trimmed to an all-Ethiopian quintet comprising Debela, Nebebew, Afewerk Mesfin, Belachew Alemayehu and Chele Dechasa.

None of the leaders was willing to take the risk to pull away too early and the group remained together patiently until the final kilometer when Alemayehu dropped away first, followed by Dechasa.

Thanks to his powerful home stretch, the long-legged Debela held off Mesfin to take the victory, maintaining his all-win record on Chinese soil as he also won the Beijing Marathon in 2:12:08 last September.

posted Monday January 7th