Nairobi — The elusive Great Ethiopian Run title is still a dream for Kenyans after once again missing to make the podium in the 21st edition held in the streets of Addis Ababa on Sunday, attracting 25,000 participants.
Kenyan Cornelius Kemboi was the first Kenyan to cross the line in 6th place in a race that was dominated by hosts Ethiopians with Gemechu Dida taking the top honors in a time of 27:22.95.
Crossing the line second was compatriot Getaneh Mola in 27:23.44 beating Boki Diriba who was placed third.
In the corresponding women's event, Antrim Coast Half Marathon champion Yalemzerf Yehualaw won the race in 30:14:20 ahead of compatriot Girmawit Gebregziabher who was second returning 30:26.95 as Melekenat Wedu settled for third spot in 30:41:95.
Winners in both categories walked home with Ksh 229,000 equivalent to 100,000 Ethiopian Birr.
Kemboi, who trains in Chepkoilel, Eldoret said the race gave him a perfect platform, racing against Ethiopian elite athletes, to be ready to compete in the track where she is targeting team Kenya 5,000m selection in the World Athletics Championship set for Oregon, USA.
"If we had more Kenyans in the race, I would have won it, because team work is key and that is what Ethiopians used. I was in the leading pack with my compatriot Shadrack Kipngetich, but he dropped out, I was left with five Ethiopians who helped each other, I did not achieve my aim of becoming the first Kenyan to win the race, but I believe I will achieve it one day," the 21-year-old said.
"Ethiopians are just athletes like us, it's a great big race and I thank the organisers for putting up this," Kemboi added.
Kipngetich on his part said his 16th finish is a good starting point to the season.
"It's a good race to gauge my fitness because I competed with talented athletes, I wish I could run together with my brother we help each other because he was strong but I am happy he finished in a money bracket position."
-Kemboi challenges Ethiopians-
In the men's race the highest placed non-Ethiopian athlete was Kemboi who finished in 6th place in a time of 27 minutes and 37 seconds, Rodgers Kibet from Uganda was 11th, Kipngetich from Kenya was 16th and Samson Amare from Eritrea was 18th.
Yehualew, the 2019 champion, improved her time with more than one and a half minutes faster than her winning time two years ago.
Yalemzerf came into the race eager to impress after having to withdraw from the Valencia 10km just two weeks ago.
At Friday's press conference she spoke about her aim of reclaiming the world half-marathon record from compatriot Letesenbet Giday.
The 2020 New Delhi Half Marathon winner ran a tactical race, making her break from long-time leader Girmawit just past the 7.5km mark after cresting the hill near the Nataional Palace.
At the 9km turn at Urael Church Yalemzerf accelerated dramatically and easily pulled clear of her rival, and looked fresh and relaxed as she cruised into the finish with a winning margin of 12 seconds.
She revealed after the race that she was wearing a new pair of shoes which she had received from her agent an hour before the start of today's race.
A total of 17,600 finished the race with the ritual mass race that started in intervals beginning with participants donning green, yellow and red t-shirts in waves, representing the colours of Ethiopia's flag.