Gotytom Gebreslase Wins 2022 World Marathon Title as American Women Go 5-7-8

July 18, 2022

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EUGENE, Ore. – Ethiopia’s Gotytom Gebreslase continued her fine start to her marathon career by winning the 2022 World Championship on Monday in 2:18:11, taking more than two minutes off Paula Radcliffe’s 2:20:57 championship record from 2005. Gebreslase, who won last fall’s Berlin Marathon in her debut and was 3rd in Tokyo in March in 2:18:18, broke away from Kenya’s Judith Korir with just over a mile to go on a sunny, cool morning in Oregon. Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter earned the bronze in 2:20:18, while Americans Sara Hall (2:22:10), Emma Bates (2:23:18 pb), and Keira D’Amato (2:23:34) finished 5-7-8, an impressive showing in front of the home fans. Pre-race favorite and defending world champion Ruth Chepngetich stepped off the course at 19 kilometers with stomach problems.

The Race

Chepngetich, as is her custom, took the race out hard and immediately forced the rest of the field into a decision about whether to go with her. She hit 5k in 16:10 (2:16:25 marathon pace) and seven women went with her, including all of the eventual medalists. D’Amato chose a half-measure, hitting 5k on her own in 9th in 16:15, while Bates and Hall hung back with the chase pack in 16:32.

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2:16 pace would prove unsustainable, though Chepngetich continued to press through 10k (32:39). But shortly after that point, Chepngetich would develop stomach problems and back off the pace, with the leaders splitting 16:50 from 10k to 15k. At 19k, Chepngetich could go no further and stepped off the course, leaving a lead trio of Gebreslase, Korir, and Boston Marathon runner-up Ababel Yeshaneh to hit halfway in 69:01. By that point, Hall and Bates had caught D’Amato and all three Americans hit halfway together in 70:17 alongside Brit Jess Piasecki. Though they were over a minute behind the leaders, this was still aggressive running by the Americans – right on Hall’s pb pace of 2:20:32 and well ahead of Bates’ pb pace of 2:24:20.

Korir and Gebreslase would separate at 27k and run side-by-side for most of the final 25k before Gebreslase finally broke away in the final mile, splitting 16:14 for her 5k segment from 37k to 42k. Behind them, Yeshaneh and Tanui were locked in a battle for bronze, but both would end up fading after the hot early pace; Yeshaneh was in 3rd at 34k but dropped out as soon as Salpeter and Eritrea’s Nazret Weldu passed her a kilometer later. Salpeter dropped Weldu with two miles to go to lock up the bronze.

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Hall, meanwhile, was sweeping up the trash, and would improve from 9th at halfway to 5th at the finish after Tanui faded and Ethiopians Yeshaneh and Ashete Bekere dropped out. Her 2:22:10 was a nice return to form after injury caused her to withdraw from Boston in April.

Hall didn’t have to wait long at the finish line to be joined by her countrywomen as Bates and D’Amato soon followed to the delight of the American crowd, the trio embracing in a group hug after D’Amato crossed the line to celebrate their collective accomplishment. 

Quick Take: Gotytom Gebreslase has started her marathon career off in truly impressive fashion

Gebreslase won the first marathon she finished last fall in Berlin (she dropped out of Osaka in 2018) but at the time it was hard to know what to make of that performance. Her time of 2:20:09 was decent in warm conditions but the field was watered-down with so many major marathons taking place last fall.

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Now it is clear that Gebreslase is a budding marathon star. After winning Berlin, she ran 2:18:18 in Tokyo in March and now 2:18:11 to win Worlds.

Quick Take: Silver medallist Judith Korir admitted that she wasn’t expecting herself to medal when the race started

Quick Take: Lonah Salpeter finally gets on the podium after past championship disappointment

Salpeter owns a 2:17:45 pb (#9 all-time) and is a major champion (she won 2020 Tokyo) but her championship record until today had been poor. She has run every Olympics/Worlds since 2016 but her results were as follows: DNF, 41st, DNF, 66th. That 66th in the Olympic marathon was particularly disappointing for Salpeter as she was in contention for a medal in the final miles only for menstrual cramps to strike at the worst time.

Today, everything went right for Salpeter and she was deservedly proud of her bronze medal. It was Israel’s first running medal ever at a World Championships and just their fourth of any kind (first since 2015).

Quick Take: Sara Hall was happy with her result and glad she got the opportunity to work together with the Americans

On the way to the course this morning, Hall let Bates and D’Amato know that if the opportunity arose, she’d be open to working with them during the race today. Sure enough, that opportunity came early in the race when she chose to hang back from Chepngetich’s hot early pace.

“I had been like, hey, I would love to work with you guys,” Hall said. “I don’t want to mess up your mojo, but if we’re together somewhere, I would love to work together. So thankfully Emma and I just found each other there. She’s just such a smooth runner, it felt really good to run with her.”

Hall was with Bates until just after halfway and though she enjoyed running with her, she wanted to give herself a shot at a medal and that meant leaving the other two Americans behind. Hall tried to employ the same strategy as she did at the 2020 London Marathon when she moved from 9th to 2nd over the second half. Hall didn’t gain quite as many places this time around as the pacing ahead of her was comparatively more sensible, but despite running a significant positive split (70:17/71:53), Hall still gained four places over the second half of the race.

Hall was pleased with the result and was able to soak in the support of the home crowd, which included her four daughters. On her way in to the finish, Hall pumped her arms up and down, imploring the crowd to make noise, reminiscent of her husband Ryan at the end of the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials.

“I think this was the most fun I’ve ever had in a marathon,” Hall said. “I wanted to smile as much as I could early on because you know it’s going to turn to a grimace eventually. But I was even smiling that last lap. The crowd, I’m really thankful for everyone that turned out because I knew this would be just so special. I don’t know if we’ll get the opportunity to run a championship like this in the US again.”

Quick Take: Keira D’Amato was “so proud” to represent team USA and get 8th on two weeks’ notice, but she’s still dreaming even BIGGER

D’Amato only got the call to run for the US for the first time two weeks ago when Molly Seidel pulled out. So she quickly changed her focus from running the Peachtree 10K to this race but only had time for one 22-miler. To finish 8th was quite an accomplishment of which D’Amato said she was “so proud.”

That being said, she admitted at the start line she wanted a medal.

“I really wanted to go out and medal. With this opportunity, put yourself in the race and see what happens. I put myself in the race and I really think in top form I can run with the best in the world,” said D’Amato, who was buoyed by having the support of her husband, kids and parents on the course.

Quick Take: Emma Bates called her PR “a huge step in the right direction.” 

Prior to the race, Bates said Hall approached her and said if it wasn’t going to kill her ‘mojo’ she’d like to try to work together, trading off the pace and trying to run 2:20.

They didn’t quite pull it off but Bates ended up being one of three women in the top 10 to PR, which she said was a “huge step in the right direction.” And Bates was able to help Hall as Hall missed her bottle at the first aid station so Bates shared hers with Hall.

Bates said she’ll now turn her focus to a fall marathon which she’s already picked but can’t announce. Since she said she wants to run “really quick” in it, we are assuming it’s not NYC.

Quick Take: The US wins the “team” title with historically strong performance

They don’t keep score in the marathon at Worlds, but if we were to score the race cross country-style, with each runner earning points corresponding to their finishing position, the US would have taken this one easily with 20 points. That’s a bit misleading though as Kenya had one DNF and Ethiopia two and there were only 32 finishers, total – Canada was the only other country to finish three women.

Still, compared to previous years this was easily the best collective three-woman performance by an American squad – which perhaps was to be expected given this is the strongest team the US has ever sent to Worlds in this event. The US had only put two women in the top 10 once before (2009 with Kara Goucher and Des Linden). Today, all three were in the top 8.

Here are the best “team scores” for the US through the years at Worlds:

2022: 20 points (Sara Hall 5th, Emma Bates 7th, Keira D’Amato 8th)
2009: 46 points (Kara Goucher 9th, Des Linden 10th, Tera Moody 27th)
2013: 50 points (Deena Kastor 9th, Dot McMahon 18th, Jeannette Faber 23rd)

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