Ethiopia’s Gebreslase finishes strong to win world marathon

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — For more than two hours, Ethiopia’s pesky Gotytom Gebreslase raced about elbow distance from her Kenyan rival. Judith Jeptum Korir looked over her shoulder and motioned for Gebreslase to take the lead as well.

When Gebreslase finally moved to the front, she never looked back.

Patient and hidden for about six minutes, Gebreslase finally exploded around Korir in Monday’s marathon at the world championships and turned what was shaping up to be a tight end into a victory by nine seconds.

Gebreslase took gold in a championship record time of 2 hours, 18 minutes, 11 seconds, with Korir taking silver.


“I felt strong,” Gebreslase said, “and decided to leave.”

Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, the Kenyan-born runner representing Israel, won the bronze medal. Sara Hall led a strong performance from the Americans with a fifth place finish.

It’s now back-to-back victories for Ethiopia in the World Marathon on the flat, fast streets of Eugene and Springfield. Tamirat Tola also won the men’s race the day before with a championship record time as well.

The women’s two-runner show was set up when Korir and Gebreslase pulled away from the field about 17 miles (27 kilometers). Shortly after, they extended their gap on the next peloton to almost a minute.

Up front, Korir grew increasingly restless as she did most of the work in the lead while Gebreslase literally slipped behind Korir’s elbow.

Korir continued to look back, motioning for Gebreslase to take his turn to set the frantic pace.

It is not uncommon over longer distances for opponents to alternate runs in front in the early stages, allowing everyone to take turns to conserve energy. Then, at the end of the race, all bets are off.

In this race, however, Gebreslase was content to run a length behind Korir.

“It bothered me a bit, the fact that she didn’t want to walk with me,” Korir said.

The tactic worked, as Gebreslase saw an opening, leaped forward, and stalked away.

“Ethiopian runners are very fast,” said Korir, whose medal was 11th overall in the women’s world marathon for Kenya. “It’s not easy to race with them, but I did my best.”

On a chilly morning with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), Gebreslase broke the championship record of 2:20:57 set by Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain in 2005 in Helsinki.

This reflected how fast the race was: Nazret Weldu of Eritrea’s time was 2:20:29, which would have been a championship record. She finished fourth.

The leading pack quickly flew away and left many behind in the 40-rider field early on. The race changed color around the 12-mile (19-kilometer) mark when defending champion Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya backed off and then retired.

Hall, 39, went from strength to strength throughout the race to finish in 2:22:10. Emma Bates finished seventh, while U.S. women’s marathon record holder and real estate agent Keira D’Amato finished eighth.

D’Amato was a late replacement for Molly Seidel, who won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics last summer. Seidel recently posted on Instagram that she is focusing on her mental health and healing her hip.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, winner of the 1984 Olympic marathon, started the field along the three-loop course which proved extremely fast. Runners rode a scenic route that crossed the Willamette River and through Pre’s Trail, a bark running track that pays homage to University of Oregon track and field icon Steve Prefontaine.

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