Gotytom Gebreslase. This image was downloaded from the Facebook page of World Athletics and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

Gotytom Gebreslase of Ethiopia won the women’s marathon at the 2022 World Athletics Championship, finishing the race in a new championship record of two hours, 18 minutes and 11 seconds.

Judith Jeptum Korir (2:18:20) of Kenya took silver and Lonah Chemtai Salpeter of Israel (2:20:18), the bronze.

It was an engaging race with a lead pack built around defending champion Ruth Chepngetich of Kenya, emerging not long after the start. However, Chepngetich was forced to withdraw from the competition between kilometres 18 and 19, due to stomach issues (as per race commentary). When Chepengetich stepped off the course, the others in the pack wasted no time in accelerating, ostensibly to make it difficult for her to catch up. From this churn, a new lead quartet was born featuring Korir, Angela Tanui of Kenya, Gebreslase and Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia. It appeared a case of two Kenyans and two Ethiopians set to battle it out for the medals. The rest of the field was behind by a visible margin although the racers were still short of the half-way mark.

Past the half-way mark, the quartet progressively split into two distinct groups with Korir and Gebreslase emerging as potential contenders for the top two positions. The two groups were separated by a sizable margin. For some time Tanui and Yeshaneh seemed to vie for the bronze before Yeshaneh moved ahead only to be overtaken in turn by Lonah Chemtai Salpeter of Israel and Nazret Weldu of Eritrea. The latter two had steadily reduced the gap between them and Tanui, and then, Yeshaneh. Despite figuring in the lead pack (and later, the duo trailing the leaders) for a good portion of the race, Ababel Yeshaneh eventually dropped off; she was seen clutching her side periodically in the build up to DNF. Roughly two kilometres from the finish line, Gebreslase who had been hovering close at the shoulders of Korir, sometimes to the latter’s discomfort, strode out in front. She increased the gap consistently and went on to finish with a new championship record to her credit.

It was a race with remarkable performances – there was the measured way in which Gebreslase ran; the display of quiet determination by Salpeter, working her way up to pass Tanui and Yeshaneh and stay ahead of Weldu for the bronze medal, and Sarah Hall of the US who too came from behind to finish fifth ahead of Tanui.  There was no dramatic sprint-finish or any such flourish for the race. What lingered instead as aftertaste was the fruits of determined running.

Gebreslase, 27, made her debut in the women’s marathon at the 2021 Berlin Marathon, which she won in 2:20:09.  Later, at the 2022 Tokyo Marathon she finished third with a timing of 2:18:18.  Korir, who took silver, had in April 2022, won in the women’s category at the Paris Marathon with timing of 2:19:48. Born in Kenya and now running for Israel, Salpeter has a personal best of 2:17:45 achieved at the 2020 Tokyo Marathon, where she placed first among women. Yeshaneh is a former world record holder in the women’s half marathon (1:04:31). Prior to that she had finished second (2:20:51) at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. Tanui had earlier placed fourth (2:18:42) at the 2022 Tokyo Marathon and before that in October 2021, won at the TCS Amsterdam Marathon (2:17:57). Weldu was winner (2:21:56) among women at the Daegu International Marathon held in April 2022 in Korea. In November 2020, she had finished seventh among women in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon.

According to Runner’s World, besides Sarah Hall, two other American athletes – Emma Bates and Keira D’Amato – finished in the top ten of the women’s marathon at the 2022 world championship in Eugene, making it the best performance by a US marathon squad, male or female, to date at the event. In terms of nationality, the top ten finishers also included two athletes from Kenya and one each from Ethiopia, Israel, Eritrea, Japan and Mexico.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)


Tamirat Tola. This image was downloaded from the Facebook page of the 2022 World Athletics Championship and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended.

Tamirat Tola of Ethiopia won the men’s marathon at the 2022 World Athletics Championship, covering the distance in a new championship record of two hours, five minutes and 36 seconds.

His compatriot Mosinet Geremew (2:06:44), who took silver, completed the Ethiopian domination of the podium. The bronze went to Bashir Abdi (2: 06: 48) of Belgium.

In its report, Runner’s World attributed Tola’s performance to “ blasting the stretch between 30K and 40K in 28:27.’’ The move helped him put a significant gap between himself and the rest of the lead pack. The previous championship record (2:06:54) was held by Abel Kirui of Kenya; it was set in Berlin in 2009.

Following the race at the 2022 world championship, World Athletics reported on its website that it had been a dream come true for Tola. “ I learned from my mistake in 2017 (World Championships) and I made sure it did not happen again. ” On that occasion, Tola’s attempted run for home 10km from the end was thwarted as Kenya’s Geoffrey Kirui overtook him to win gold. This time there was no faltering on the 30-year-old Ethiopian’s part,” the report said.

It added, “ By the 34km marker his lead was seven seconds. At 35km it was 12 seconds, at 36km it was 17 seconds and at 37km it was 26 seconds. With 5km to go, the gold was gone and the drama of the race resided in which of the chasing group of four – Abdi, Geremew, Levins and Kamworor – would share the podium.’’

In the past, Tola had finished second in the men’s marathon at the 2017 world championships held in London. In March 2022, he had placed third in the annual Tokyo Marathon and prior to that, won the 2021 TCS Amsterdam Marathon. Geremew owns the third fastest time yet in the marathon; 2:02:55, set at the 2019 London Marathon. No stranger to India, he was twice winner – in 2014 and 2015 – of the TCS World 10K held every year in Bengaluru.  Abdi, who is originally from Somalia, had earlier won the bronze medal in the men’s marathon, at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Finishing just after Basher Abdi at the 2022 world championship in Eugene, was Cameron Levins of Canada. He earned a new national record of 2:07:09. At the Tokyo Olympics held in 2021, he had finished 72nd in the men’s marathon. The highest ranked Kenyan athlete in the men’s marathon in Eugene was Geoffrey Kamworor. He covered the distance in 2:07:14 to place fifth. Among American runners in the men’s marathon at Eugene, Galen Rupp was the first one home in 2:09:37. He placed nineteenth. A highly ranked runner in the US, Rupp had earlier won a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and subsequently finished eighth at the Olympic Games in Tokyo (the marathon was held in Sapporo).

As per results available on the website of World Athletics, the top ten finishers in the men’s marathon at Eugene included three athletes from Ethiopia and one each from Canada, Kenya, Tanzania, Brazil, Bahrain and Zimbabwe. A notable DNF was well known Ethiopian long-distance runner, Lelisa Desisa (a past winner of the annual marathons in Boston and New York, in 2011, he was winner of the Delhi Half Marathon).

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)