Fellow-Ethiopian Sisay Lemma stepped in with an amazing performance to secure victory for his country at the Vienna City Marathon where pre-race favourite Getu Feleke dropped out injured. 24 year-old Lemma won the 32nd edition of Austria’s biggest sporting event with a fine 2:07:31 in windy and relatively warm weather conditions. The Ethiopian broke away already at the 27 k mark and went on to achieve the biggest winning margin in the history of the race. Kenya’s Duncan Koech was second with 2:12:14, almost five minutes back. While Siraj Gena of Ethiopia took third in 2:12:48 the defending champion Getu Feleke, who clocked a course record of 2:05:41 a year ago, suffered a muscle problem and stopped around the 17 k mark.
There was a surprise in the women’s race: Switzerland’s Maja Neuenschwander won with 2:30:09 from Kenyans Agnes Mutune and Esther Chemtai, who clocked 2:30:19 and 2:30:32 respectively. While Caroline Chepkwony of Kenya took fourth in 2:30:36 Germany’s defending champion Anna Hahner was fifth in 2:30:50.
Organisers had to cope with a number of late cancellations of sub 2:10 runners on the days before the race. Only five runners with such personal bests were left on the starting line. Additionally the wind made it difficult, so that the leading group was reduced to five runners plus three pacemakers early on. Siraj Gena was the first one to fall behind, though he managed to move back into third place late in the race. After the group passed the 10 k mark in 30:16 two pacemakers gave up surprisingly early. While Getu Feleke lost contact at 15 k and finally dropped out about five minutes later, Eritrea’s Beyene Beraki fell back before the 20 k mark. At half way, which was passed in 63:07, there were only Sisay Lemma and Kenya’s debutant Suleiman Simotwo left besides pacemaker David Kogei (Kenya).
Lemma, who had clocked his personal best of 2:07:06 less than three months ago in Dubai, made the decisive move early. When Kogei stepped aside shortly before the 27 k mark he surged ahead while Simotwo could not respond. The Kenyan finally finished fifth with 2:14:42. Building a big lead quickly Lemma had to battle a head wind during the final section of the race. Taking into account these conditions during a solo run it was quite a performance by the Ethiopian. “If there would have been no wind and good competition until the final stages I think I could have broken the course record – this was my goal. I would like to come back next year and give it another try,” said Sisay Lemma.
In the women’s race Maja Neuenschwander and Ethiopia’s Fate Tola broke away from a group of seven runners just before the 15 k mark. The pair passed the half way mark in 1:13:35, running 34 seconds ahead of Anna Hahner and Kenyans Agnes Mutune, Esther Chemtai and Caroline Chepkwony.
At 29 k Fate Tola, who ran her first marathon after maternity leave, faltered and started loosing a lot of ground. In the end she finished seventh with 2:34:43. After her pacemaker got problems and dropped back Maja Neuenschwander was on her own for the last 10 kilometres. She slowed and it almost looked as if she would be caught. At 35 k her lead was cut to 17 seconds by Esther Chemtai. But 35 year-old Neuenschwander, who has a personal best of 2:29:42, held on. “It was only shortly before the finish when I knew that I would win. This is the best moment of my career”, said Neuenschwander, who became the first Swiss winner in the history of the Vienna City Marathon. “The wind was the problem, otherwise I would have run faster,” said Neuenschwander who had an eye on the Swiss record of 2:27:44.
For more information please visit: www.vienna-marathon.com