18-year-old came in with just a 62:53 half marathon personal best but ran first half of marathon at World Record pace (61:39).
January 24, 2014
The third time is indeed the charm.
Today, for the third year in a row, an Ethiopian making his debut in the marathon won the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon with a time in the 2:04s.
However, the Ethiopian winning in his maiden try at the 26.2 mile distance today wasn’t the man who received most of the pre-race publicity – Ethiopian national record holder in the half marathon Atsedu Tsegay, who sports a 58:47 personal best at 13.1. Instead, the winner in 2:04:32, setting a world junior record, was the unheralded Tsegaye Mekonnen Asefa, (update we’re going to refer to him like the IAAF does Tsegaye Mekonnen) an 18-year old who had a pedestrian 62:53 half-marathon personal best coming in. We say had because the Mekonnen went through half-way with a pack of 15 men on world record pace in 61:39.
The pace was even faster than that at the start as the runners hit 5k in an unconfirmed 13:42 and first 10km of 29:04 (2:02:38 pace). That pace obviously proved too fast as the projected finishing time would slow until the finish. By 30k (1:28:15 – 2:04:07 pace) the lead pack had been reduced to nine men. 5km later, there were just two men up front, Mekonnen and compatriot Markos Geneti, and just before 36km Mekonnen found himself all alone thanks to a re-injection of pace and a 2:49 km.
Once in the lead there was no stopping Mekonnen who looked over his shoulder some six or seven minutes from the finish line and realized he had the race in the bag. He justifiably gave an excited quick pump of his fists before finishing off the final two kilometers. There was plenty of reason for Mekonnen to be excited as this certainly will be a life-changing victory for him. Coming in, he was best known for having finished fifth at the World Juniors in 2012 in the 5000. Now he’s $200,000 richer and a potential marathon star.
Remember, last year the winner in Dubai in his first marathon ever was 23-year-old Lelisa Desisa who went on to be ranked #2 in the world after winning again in Boston and finishing second at Worlds.
Geneti, who was third here two years ago in 2:04:54, ended up a well-deserved second in 2:05:13 as Ethiopians swept the top five places.
“The pace was changing a lot during the first half, which was quite tough. I think I could have run faster with an even pace,” said Tsegaye Mekonnen to race organizers after the race. “But I am of course very happy and proud of my performance. I had no idea about the World Junior Record – so this is a bonus for me.”
Note: The IAAF doesn’t officially recognize world junior records in the marathon but the previous unofficial mark belonged to Eric Ndiema (Kenia), who ran 2:06:07 in Amsterdam 2011. Last year, Berhanu Shiferaw ran 2:04:48 in Dubai and that was ahyped as a world junior record incorrectly by organizers as Shiferaw turned 20 in May and you can’t turn 20 at any point in the year.
Quick Take #1: Talk about unexpected victories.
Here are the two races that our results database http://www.tilastopaja.org/ lists for Mekonnen for 2013:
10 km: 29:33 SB 15 Bangalore 19 May
Half Marathon: 62:53 PB 14RAK Ras Al Khaimah 15 Feb
A guy who was 15th in a 10k and 14th in a half-marathon last year runs 2:04 in the marathon.
A guy with a 62:53 half-marathon pr, sets a half marathon pr by over a minute (61:39) and then comes back the second half to tie his previous pr (62:53) to run 2:04:52 and win the richest prize in marathoning. Wow.
Even if you don’t believe Mekonnen is only 18, this victory is truly amazing. (We can’t ignore Mekonnen’s official age because it gives him the world junior best for the marathon).
Mekonnen is proof positive that guys aren’t even bothering to try to have track careers. Head straight to the marathon where the money is.
Quick Take #2:What happened to the Ethiopian national record holder at 13.1 Atsedu Tsegay?
He was a DNF. He hit 13.1 with the leaders but by 30km(1:28:30) was 15 seconds behind lead pack.
Quick Take #3: The debutante we feel the worst for is 13:00/26:52 man Abera Kuma. He was on world-record pace at half-way. He was in the top 5 at 30k on 2:04:07 pace. But he faded at the end and finished 11th in 2:09:53. 10th place was 2:09:50 and earned $8,000 – a decent payday in Ethiopia. 11th pays zero. Ouch.
Quick Take #4: While we’re not convinced the first 5km really was under 14:00, we’re going to say that currently in the marathon if you see a 5k split under 14:10, then throw the chance of the world record out the window. A split that fast will ruin the runner’s chances by the end. Pacing is critical in the marathon.
There was no realistic reason to think the guys in this field would attack the world record, but when the first splits are that fast, the record definitely isn’t going to happen. It’s a little exciting to see the splits on the board but any split under 14:10 is simply way too fast. World record pace is 14:37 per 5 km.
Top Men’s Results
1. Tesegaye Mekonnen Asefa, 1995, ETH 2:04:32 DB/WJR USD 200,000
[1:01:39 / 1:02:53]
2. Markos Geneti, ETH 2:05:13 80,000
[1:01:38 / 1:03:35]
3. Girmay Birhanu Gebru, ETH 2:05:49 PB 40,000
[1:01:39 / 1:04:10]
4. Tamirat Tola Adera, ETH 2:06:17 PB 20,000
5. Azmeraw Bekele Molaign, ETH 2:07:12 PB 12,000
6. Shumi Dechase Leche, BRN? 2:07:13 11,200
7. Abrah Milaw Asefa, ETH 2:07:46 PB 10,400
8. Abera Kassw Belay, ETH 2:08:18 PB 9,600
9. Belachew Alemayehu Ameta, ETH 2:09:50 8,800
10. Abera Kuma Lema, ETH 2:09:53 8,000
11. Yekeber Bayabel Gesese, ETH 2:10:14
12. Abraraw Misganaw Tegegne, ETH 2:10:22
13. Workneh Tesfa Tiruneh, ETH 2:11:38
14. Sufa Chala, ETH 2:12:44
15. Tsuyoshi Ugachi, JPN 2:13:41 PB
16. Laban Kipngetich Korir, KEN 2:14:13
17. Tilahun Aliyev, AZE 2:15:00
18. Japhet Kipkorir, KEN 2:15:19
19. Edwin Kimaiyo, KEN 2:15:20
20. Birhanu Gidefa Chimdesa, ETH 2:16:09
21. Abeba Dinkessa Negara, ETH 2:16:20
22. Haile Haja Gemeda, ETH 2:17:28
23. Hluf Taklehaymanot, ETH 2:17:49
24. Husien Mohamed, ETH 2:18:09
25. Abraham Teselde Gebrekidan, ERI 2:19:34
26. Mehari Resom Gebregergsh, ERI 2:19:52
27. Julius Karina, KEN 2:20:04
28. Teklebrhan Estifanos Gebrekidan, ERI 2:20:27
29. Fidele Jefferson, USA 2:22:59
30. Zewengel Negash Okbaslasie, ERI 2:23:15
31. Fredrik Uhrbom, SWE 2:23:56
Chala Lelisa Debele, ETH DNF
Edwin Kibet Koech, KEN DNF
Essa Ismail Rashed, QAT DNF
Victor Kipchirchir, KEN DNF
Atsedu Tsegay Tesfaye, ETH DNF
Abere Chane, ETH DNF