Ethiopian wins Seoul marathon

31-year-old un­seats three-time cham­pion by clock­ing 2:07:43

JoongAng Daily - - Front Page - BY SONG JI-HOON, PARK SO-YOUNG bong­moon@joongang.co.kr

The an­nual JoongAng Seoul In­ter­na­tional Marathon, co-hosted by JoongAng Ilbo, Il­gan Sports and the Korean As­so­ci­a­tion of Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tions, was held yes­ter­day at Jam­sil Sta­dium in south­east­ern Seoul.

A to­tal of about 14,800 peo­ple at­tended the an­nual event, which was di­vided into three cat­e­gories: Elite for pro­fes­sional run­ners, Masters for am­a­teurs and Wheel­chair for dis­abled par­tic­i­pants. Com­peti­tors be­gan at Jam­sil Sta­dium, turned around in Seong­nam, Gyeonggi, and headed back to the sta­dium.

Fey­isa Bekele Woldemikael, a 31year-old Ethiopian took first place, reach­ing the fin­ish line in 2:07:43 in his first time run­ning in the Seoul event. He won $50,000 in prize money. De­fend­ing cham­pion James Kip­sang Kwambai of Kenya, who won the ti­tle for three con­sec­u­tive years, fin­ished the race ninth with 2:11:31.

Woldemikael stayed in the lead­ing pack with six other run­ners, in­clud­ing Kwambai, then pulled ahead of the group along with two Kenyans, Che­bet Evans Ki­pla­gat, 26, and Thomas Ki­pla­gat Rono, 27, after 35 kilo­me­ters (21.7 miles). Run­ners’ times were recorded ev­ery 5 kilo­me­ters, and Woldemikael’s time be­tween 35 kilo­me­ters to 40 kilo­me­ters was 14:53, the fastest among all con­tes­tants. He took the lead when after 40 kilo­me­ters and stayed ahead un­til the fin­ish line.

“The weather and at­mos­phere were the best,” said Woldemikael after the race. “I’m glad to be the first Ethiopian win­ner in the JoongAng Mara- thon, after the Kenyans who have done great jobs. I’ll be com­ing back next year to keep the ti­tle.”

Yes­ter­day he proved that he had re­gained his form after a right ham­string in­jury dam­aged his per­for­mances over the past cou­ple years. After set­ting a per­sonal best 2:06:26 at a marathon in Am­s­ter­dam in Oc­to­ber 2012, he got slower, clock­ing 2:09:05 in Tokyo in Oc­to­ber last year and 2:11:03 at the Dong-A Marathon in Seoul in March.

“I fo­cused on re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and train­ing more than any­thing for [the JoongAng Marathon],” said the cham­pion. “I’ve run many cour­ses in Seoul but I was most sat­is­fied with this com­pe­ti­tion, and also it gave me hope that I can do it.”

Che­bet Evans Ki­pla­gat came in sec­ond with 2:07:46 and Thomas Ki­pla­gat Rono fin­ished third with 2:07:52.

Many am­a­teur marathon­ers also com­peted. Among them was Jeong Mi-yeong, 58, who com­pleted her 371st full marathon. She ran as a pace­maker and crossed the fin­ish line just after four hours and 40 min­utes.

“When I com­pleted a full marathon for the 200th time, I was cu­ri­ous how long I would be able to keep run­ning,” said Jeong. “This was my 371st, and I will not stop.”

She be­gan run­ning marathons in 2001, when she par­tic­i­pated in the JoongAng Seoul In­ter­na­tional Marathon’s half-marathon and clocked 1:55:00. Jeong fin­ished her first full marathon in 2002 and has run at least 30 a year since then.

“I’m not run­ning to shorten my record but to en­joy,” she Jeong. “I work out from time to time and try to keep my 4:40 record. I also hope to en­cour­age other peo­ple to re­vi­tal­ize their lives with run­ning.”

In the wheel­chair di­vi­sion of the race, Hong Suk-man of Korea came in first with a time of 1:33:59, beat­ing Spa­niard Rafael Jimenez, who passed the fin­ish line at 1:34:01 just two seconds be­hind Hong.

Hong is a well-known dis­abled ath­lete.

He has won gold medals in the men’s 100-me­ter and 200-me­ter wheel­chair races at the 2004 Athens Par­a­lympics and added another in the 400-me­ters at the 2008 Beijing Par­a­lympics.

“I am con­fi­dent when I’m on the course,” said Hong. “We had many up­hill sec­tions, but I ex­er­cised dur­ing the sum­mer and it took ef­fect.”

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