Daniel Kibet had been recruited as a pacemaker for the Istanbul Marathon, but the Kenyan was clearly inspired by the IAAF Gold Label road race’s motto – ‘Don’t stop, run!’ – and stayed on to win the event in a course record of 2:09:44 on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s Hirut Tibebu clocked Istanbul’s third-fastest winning time to take the women’s title in 2:23:40, just five seconds shy of her lifetime best.
One of three pacemakers for the lead pack, Kibet led a group of 14 men through 10km in 30:14 and all but one of those were still in the pack as they reached the half-way point in 1:04:12, well on schedule to break the course record of 2:09:57.
Defending champion and course record-holder Felix Kimutai (KEN) and Turkey’s two-time European 10,000m champion Polat Kemboi Arikan were also in the lead group, but Arikan could only keep up the pace for another few kilometres before drifting away from the leaders at about 27km.
Kibet, meanwhile, still looked comfortable at the front and reached 30km – the point at which he was due to drop out – in 1:31:29. While Kibet continued to run, fellow pacemaker Moses Kemei (KEN) exited the race then, leaving four other athletes – Peter Ndorobo (KEN), Yitayal Atnafu (ETH), Cosmas Birech (KEN) and Kimutai – in contention.
Birech was the first of that quintet to fade with the remaining four hitting the 40km mark in 2:02:53, still inside course record pace. Kimutai was the next to fall behind, doing so quite quickly as the lead pack entered Gulhane Park with 2:06 on the clock.
Less than a minute later, Kibet put in a decisive surge and broke up the front trio. He forged on ahead and went on to win in 2:09:44, taking 13 seconds off Kimutai’s course record. Atnafu held on for a second place in 2:09:57 with Ndorobo finishing third in 2:10:09, 41 seconds ahead of Kimutai.
The course record of 2:18:35 – set last year by world champion Ruth Chepngetich (KEN) – was never under threat in the women’s race, but it played out in similar fashion to the men’s contest with eventual winner Hirut Tibebu of Ethiopia breaking away in the final few kilometres.
The opening pace was relatively swift with the lead group of seven women passing 10km in 33:50, which is 2:22:45 pace – a time that only one woman in the field, Kenya’s Visiline Jepkesho, had ever bettered.
But Jepkesho, a 2:21:37 performer at best who had clocked 2:22:40 to finish second in Istanbul in 2017, was already struggling to stay with the lead pack, perhaps having not yet fully recovered from contesting the World Championships marathon in Doha five weeks ago.
Another of the pre-race favourites, Bahrain’s Merima Mohammed, was even further back and soon dropped out.
Tibebu, however, was always among the leaders and they passed through the half-way point in 1:11:38, putting them on pace for a finishing time just outside 2:23. The Ethiopian had four other women for a company – compatriots Tigist Abayechew and Sifan Melaku plus Kenyan duo Maurine Chepkemoi and Angela Tanui – as she reached 30km in 1:41:53.
Melaku and Tanui started to drift back over the next few kilometres and were soon followed by Chepkemoi and Abayechew, leaving Tibebu out in front alone. The 24-year-old pressed on unopposed to win in 2:23:40.
Further back, Abayechew and Chepkemoi were locked in their own battle for the other two podium spots with Abayechew managing to hold off the Kenyan to take second place, 2:24:15 to Chepkemoi’s 2:24:16.
In partnership with ANA and Sports Leo