Olympics

Valencia Marathon 2023: Joshua Cheptegei toils on marathon debut

Lemma charged clear in the last 7km to win in 2:01:48 with Cheptegei finishing down in 37th and veteran Kenenisa Bekele taking fourth place. Worknesh Degefa led an Ethiopian 1-2-3 in the women's race.

Sisay Lemma collected another big-race win in the 2023 Valencia Marathon on Sunday (3 December).

The 2021 London Marathon victor broke clear of fellow Ethiopian Dawit Wolde and Kenya’s Kandiwott Kandie with 7km to go of the 42.195km race distance.

The trio were well inside world record pace at 30km, but Lemma eventually crossed the line in 2:01:48, over a minute outside Kelvin Kiptum’s mark from Chicago in October.

Lemma, who turns 33 later this month, did break Kiptum’s course record from 12 months ago by five seconds.

With Hillary Kipkoech doing an exceptional pacemaking job, Lemma, Wolde and Kandie formed a lead group just after the halfway stage.

When Kipkoech dropped out after 30km, Wolde pushed the pace at the front but it was Lemma who made the decisive move.

Alexander Mutiso finished strongly to take second for Kenya in 2:03:11 with Wolde 37 seconds further back in third.

Sisay Lemma Sets Valencia Marathon Course Resord with 2:01:48 | Watch Athletics
Sisay Lemma Sets Valencia Marathon Course Resord with 2:01:48 | Watch Athletics

Three-time Olympic gold medallist on the track, Kenenisa Bekele, was just over 20 seconds behind the lead group at halfway and appeared to have decided not to go with the strong pace at the front.

That proved to be a wise move with the 41-year-old Ethiopian legend passing plenty of slowing runners, including Kandie, to take fourth place in a new Masters world record of 2:04:19.

On his marathon debut, 5000m and 10,000m world record holder Joshua Cheptegei was among those dropped having reached the half in the lead group in 60:35. Uganda’s reigning 5000m Olympic champion tired badly in the second half of the race, eventually finishing down in 37th place in 2:08:59.

Ethiopia completed a podium sweep in the women’s race with Worknesh Degefa winning in 2:15:51 to go seventh on the all-time list.

Degefa dropped Rio 2016 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana in the closing stages and finished some 30 seconds clear of her teammate.

Hiwot Gebrekidan was third, just inside 2:18, with the rest of the field outside 2:20.

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