Beirut — Despite extremely warm conditions, Kenya's Dominic Ruto took 23 seconds off the Blom Bank Beirut Marathon record to win the men's race in 2:10:41, while Kenyan-born Bahraini Eunice Chumba ran 2:28:38 to improve the women's record by more than half a minute.
It was already18C when the starter's pistol fired at 6:30am and there was no cloud cover whatsoever. By the finish at Martyrs' Square it was 23C. With the country in political limbo, the celebration was a tonic to the masses.
Ruto overcame his favoured compatriot and defending champion Edwin Kiptoo to capture first place and the Sh1.1mn. He out-sprinted Adane Amsalu on the finishing straight to beat the Ethiopian by four seconds, while Kiptoo could manage only third in 2:11:56.
Kiptoo was brimming with confidence the whole weekend, having won the Breda Half Marathon in 1:00:42 in his final test before Beirut.
Early on he was right on the heels of the two designated pacemakers through the half way point in 1:04:07 and found himself alone when the pacemakers dropped out.
His lead was roughly 20 seconds at one point, but at 38 kilometres, with a successful title defence apparently in hand, he felt a tightening in his achilles tendon and visibly slowed. Ruto could see this too.
"When I was at 38 kilometres, I realised my body was good and I realised that I could catch them because there were three in the front," said the winner. "My body was ok and so I managed to push and to catch them at 40 kilometres."
Amsalu, competing in his third marathon of the year, had a rather unlucky day. Not only did he lose in a sprint finish, but at 30 kilometres he had become confused when the pace maker he was following took a line away from the electronic mat.
Realising the mistake, he went back and tapped the mat with his foot to ensure he was in the computer, but the manoeuvre cost him a few valuable seconds.
Speeding up to catch his rivals also cost him valuable energy. Nevertheless, he was smiling afterwards.
Chumba prevailed as expected in the women's race, pulling away from defending champion Tigist Girma of Ethiopia in the final 10 kilometres.
Her winning time of 2:28:38 capped a brilliant season for the 24-year-old who ran 2:24:27 for second in Rotterdam before establishing an Asian half marathon record of 1:06:11 in Copenhagen.
"I decided to try to win at about 32 kilometres," said a smiling Chumba. "I said 'let me try to win the race'. My PB is 2:24, but I am happy to get the course record. I was trying just for the course record. The course was a nice course. It was really a flat course."
Her decisive move put distance between her and Girma, but the Ethiopian didn't capitulate and was thereafter rewarded with a personal best of 2:29:00.
"I came here to win the race, but I had a little bit of pain in my leg and this Kenyan woman is very strong," said Girma. "This time I finished second. I tried to catch her but she was moving faster than me. She is so strong. But I am happy with my PB."
Third place went to Debebe Getachew in a PB of 2:30:31.
The spirit of the event continues to grow along with the numbers. Including the children's races, the 8km fun run the 21km and full marathon, more than 48,000 people participated under the theme of peace and unity.