The first IAAF Gold Label Road Race of 2017, the Xiamen International Marathon, started promptly at 08:00 on Monday 2nd January and was dominated by Ethiopian athletes in both the men’s and women’s elite events.
In the men’s race, winner Lemi Berhanu took the lead from the start and never looked threatened, coming through to win in a time of 2:08:27. Although outside of his personal best (2:04:33), the 22-year-old was happy with the result, having already commented in the press conference that the “the course is very hard with a lot of rises and falls, and the weather is very hot”.
Fellow Ethiopian Mosinet Geremew impressed with his marathon debut, taking second place with a time of 2:10:20, beating countryman and last year’s runner-up, Shura Kitata, who came home in third place with a time of 2:10:36.
The Ethiopian women also prevailed with a comfortable top-three finish. Winner Meseret Mengistu completed the course in 2:25:58 to sink compatriot Workenesh Edesa’s hopes of retaining her 2016 title.
Edesa had set a personal best to win last year’s edition, but was unable to repeat that this year and clocked 2:26:27 to take second place. Melkam Gizaw took third place in 2:26:47.
“I am happy to be the champion,” said Mengistu, “but it’s a pity that I didn’t break my personal record. The day is hot and the slopes in the return course were hard.”
Up to 30,000 runners from 31 different countries took part this year, buoyed by the vociferous support of numerous spectators along the route – something that has become a feature of the Xiamen race. They were rewarded with a race set, for the first time, almost in its entirety along the unspoilt coastline of the garden city of Xiamen, further enhancing what is already justifiably reputed to be one of the most beautiful road courses in the world.