Kenya’s Titus Ekiru ran a smart race at the Telcel Mexico City International Marathon to set a course record of 2:10:38 at the IAAF Silver Label event on Sunday (26), while Etaferahu Temesgen led an Ethiopian sweep in the women’s contest.
The men’s race set a modest pace from the start, covering the first five kilometres in 16:32. About a dozen men reached the halfway mark in 1:06:09, a group that included Ethiopia’s defending champion Fikadu Kebede. At 30 kilometres, reached in 1:33:11, the leaders have been reduced to Ekiru, Edwin Koech and Matthew Kisorio, 43 seconds ahead of the chase group.
At that point, Ekiru made a decisive move and progressively extended his lead as the race approached the toughest hills on Insurgentes Avenue on its way to the Olympic stadium. He upped the pace and covered the second half in 1:04:30 to win in 2:10:38, breaking the previous record of 2:11:12 and securing the second marathon victory of his career.
“I enjoyed the course and the altitude of Mexico City (2,240m) is similar as in Kenya so it did not affect me much,” said Ekiru, who has a PB of 2:07:43. “I am very happy to set a record and I realised at 20 kilometres that I felt very well, and I knew I could really break a new record.”
In his fourth marathon since making his debut at the distance in 2016, Ekiru pocketed MXN 550,000 (about US$27,000) for his effort. He became the third Kenyan in six years to win the race.
Koech (2:12:35) and Kisorio (2:13:14) completed a Kenyan sweep on the podium.
In the women’s race, marathon debutante Grace Wambui set a swift pace from the start. By the five-kilometre mark, covered in 18:30, she enjoyed a lead of more than a minute and a half over the chase group. She had extended her advantage to 2:47 at the halfway mark (1:20:09).
But the ambitious pace took its toll on Wambui. The Ethiopian quartet of Etaferahu Temesgen, Fantu Eticha Jimma, Tinbit Weldegebriel and Biruktayit Degefa and Kenya’s Pamela Rotich ran smarter and caught up with her after 33 kilometres.
Wambui, visibly suffering, responded momentarily but suddenly stopped, hugged a policeman and cried on his shoulders. She tried to return, but her energy was depleted and opted out.
As the leading quintet made their way on Insurgentes to the Olympic stadium, Temesgen made a decisive move in the closing stages and it paid off as she crossed the finish line in 2:40:10 to take her first ever win at the distance in her eighth marathon.
The 26-year old, who boasts a 2:29:24 lifetime best set in Ottawa in 2015, led Jimma (2:40:24) Tinbit Weldegebriel (2:40:27) and Biruktayit Degefa (2:40:45) home to cement Ethiopia’s dominance in the race. Kenya’s Pamela Rotich finished fifth in 2:41:09.
“I have trained well for this race, so we managed the steep finish without problems,” said Temesgen.
A total of 32,645 runners crossed the finish line, including 68-year-old Miguel Ángel Vargas, the only person who has run all editions of the Mexico City Marathon. He wore bib number 42195.
The 36th edition, broadcast live on local TV, followed the same course as in the 1968 Olympic Games. It also paid tribute to Mexico’s renowned athletes, like two-time Olympian marathoner and coach Rodolfo Gomez, 1984 Olympic race walking champion Ernest Canto and Enriqueta Basilio, the first woman who lit the flame at the 1968 Games.