Valary Jemeli Aiyabei smashed the 2:20 barrier at the Mainova Frankfurt Marathon on Sunday clocking 2:19:10

In a thrilling men’s race, Ethiopia’s Fikre Tefera broke clear from his compatriot Dawit Wolde to win by just two seconds in 2:07:08.

Just one week after Brigid Kosgei clocked a world record of 2:14:04 at the Chicago Marathon, spectators in Frankfurt wondered if another record was about to happen in the German city after Aiyabei went through 10km in 31:44, on schedule for a 2:13:54 finish.

The 28-year-old Kenyan was paced by her husband Kenneth Tarus until he had to drop out at 15km because of stomach problems, but Aiyabei continued in imposing style, going through halfway in 1:07:42.

Aiyabei’s pace slowed in the second half, but she continued to operate inside the required schedule to finish inside the course record of 2:20:36 set 12 months ago by one of her distant pursuers, Meskerem Assefa. Aiyabei eventually crossed the line in 2:19:10, improving the course record by 86 seconds.

“My aim was to break my personal best,” said Aiyabei, whose previous PB was 2:20:53. Despite her tremendously fast early pace, she hadn’t planned an attack on the world record. “Running alone isn’t easy. I had to struggle and grind it out.”

The chasing group, some way behind, comprised high class talent who were themselves on course for sub-2:20 much of the time. Ethiopia’s Megertu Kebede emerged to take second place in a PB of 2:21:10. Defending champion Meskerem Assefa finished third in 2:22:14 ahead of European 10,000m champion Lonah Salpeter of Israel, who came home in 2:23:11.

The leading group in the men’s field set off slower than intended and the prospect of a finishing time inside of 2:05 soon drifted out of reach. The 14-strong leading group went through halfway in 1:03:29 and were without pacemakers from 25km onwards. The fastest man in the field, Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Mekonnen, dropped out before 30km.

It was only at about 35km that the group started to break up. Mark Kiptoo, the Kenyan who set a world M40 best of 2:07:50 on this course last year, dropped off the pace and eventually finished sixth in 2:08:09. Four men pulled away: Kenya’s Martin Kosgey, Ethiopia’s Fikre Tefera and Dawit Wolde and Bahrain’s Aweke Yimer, the latter making his marathon debut.

The outcome was decided with fewer than 300 metres to run before they reached the red carpet in Frankfurt’s Festhalle. At that point the 21-year-old Fikre Tefera went clear and won in 2:07:08.

“I had hoped for a faster time but the pacemaker wasn’t fast enough, although the conditions were good,” said Fikre, who has a PB of 2:06:27. Wolde finished two seconds behind Fikre and two seconds ahead of Yimer in what was the closest finish ever in Frankfurt.

posted Monday October 28th