Ethiopians poised to dominate Rome Marathon

The Acea Run Rome The Marathon has proved a happy hunting ground in recent years for athletes from the east African nation

Winners of the Rome Marathon in the past include Emile Puttemans of Belgium, Bernie Ford from Britain and Stefano Baldini of Italy. But Ethiopia has dominated in recent years and the east African nation will be tough to beat again in the 2023 event on Sunday (March 19).

Six of the last nine men’s winners and seven of the last eight women’s champions in Rome have come from Ethiopia and runners from that country lead the entries this weekend too.

Fikre Bekele will attempt to defend his men’s title whereas fellow Ethiopian Zinash Debebe Getachew leads the women’s line-up.

Bekele ran a course record of 2:06:48 last year in the Italian capital but has since improved his best to 2:06:16 when he won the Linz Marathon in October.

Also expected to be at the front of the 15,000-strong field are Berhanu Heye and Alemu Gemechu of Ethiopia along with Nicodemus Kimutai of Kenya. Look out too for reigning Dublin Marathon champion Taoufik Allam of Morocco.

Women’s favorite Getachew has a best of 2:27:15 but will be challenged by Brenda Kiprono of Kenya, plus Mulugojam Ambi and Amid Fozya Jemal of Ethiopia.

The women’s course record is held by Alemu Megertu with 2:22:52.

Italian interest, meanwhile, includes Nekagenet Crippa (the older brother of European 10,000m champion Yeman), Stefano La Rosa and Giorgio Calcaterra. The latter, who is now aged 51, is known as the ‘king of Rome’ as he first ran the Rome Marathon 20 years ago and has completed 330 marathons during his life, won the world 100km title three times and has notched up 12 consecutive victories in the famous 100km del Passatore ultra-marathon.

A little further down the field, all eyes will be on Ermias Ayele, a former race director of the Great Ethiopian Run who is aiming to complete the 26.2 miles barefoot in memory of the great Abebe Bikila, who stormed to Olympic glory on the streets of Rome in 1960.

“Abebe Bikila laid the foundation for the success of not only Ethiopian athletes, but Africans in general as he was the first black to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games,” he says. “However, I have always felt that he did not get the recognition he deserved. Moreover, his story always inspired me and that’s why I am planning to emulate him in the same place and the same way, where he made history and pay tribute to all he’s done for athletics and Ethiopia.”

posted Friday March 17th
by Jason Henderson