In a struggle debut for Cheptegei, Valencia consecrated the fourth fastest marathon runner in history

The Ethiopian Sisay Lemma broke the circuit record with the sixth fastest time in history. The rookie finished piecework in 37th place, Bekele broke the world record among those over 40 and there was a double Spanish record.

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An exhausted Cheptegei assisted by coach Marc Roig as he crossed the finish line.
Credit: @maratonvalencia
An exhausted Cheptegei assisted by coach Marc Roig as he crossed the finish line. Credit: @maratonvalencia

Outside the hexagon shaped by Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York, the Majors of the marathon, Valencia has registered itself as an extremely prominent station in the 42.195 kilometer calendar. By dint of historic marks and illustrious surnames, the 43rd edition held last Sunday, once again ratified it.

The 32-year-old Ethiopian Sisay Lemma set the race record by beating Kelvin Kiptum by five seconds and set the sixth best record of all time, taking first place in 2:01:48. Also the owner of glory in London 2021 and third place in Berlin 2019 and Tokyo 2020 (the annual race, not the Olympic Games race), he became the fourth man to beat 2:02:00, on a list comprised of world record holder Kiptum, Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele.

The Kenyan Alexander Mutiso (2:03:11) and the Ethiopian Dawit Wolde (2:03:48) accompanied Lemma on the podium, who accelerated and managed to take off at kilometer 35 and received 30 thousand euros from the organization for his record achievement. In the beginning, the African winner ran barefoot, delivering the same postcard as his compatriot Abbe Bikila to the world in his legendary triumph in Rome 1960.

The baptism in the discipline of the Olympic champion and runner-up in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, Joshua Cheptegei, stood out as the maximum attraction, and the Ugandan scored a performance more linked to sacrifice than to excellence: he crossed the finish line in position 37, in 2:08:59, a time that placed him far from the podium - his goal - and that he had not qualified for Paris. “It’s the most powerful lesson of my life,” he confessed.

Prior to the race, he had expressed his intention to refocus on the tracks with a view to the Olympic Games, where he acknowledged that he will especially pursue the gold one that is due, the 10 km one. “From there, we’ll see”, he had let go before running. “I have more episodes to write in the marathon,” he said after the end of his debut.

The clearest example of validity and competitiveness was offered by Bekele. If in the anteroom he had called Valencia “a very good circuit to try to make a quick time for the Games”, at 41 years old he succeeded in a big way. Not only did he comfortably drop the 2:08:10 required by Paris 2024, but with his 2:04:19 he finished fourth and took the world record for people over 40. After the race, he warned that next European spring he will seek to improve himself before landing in France.

The women’s competition was won by Worknesh Degefa, also an Ethiopian, also the best personal record (2:15:51) and the eighth best time in history. On the banks of the Turia, two Spanish athletes signed the fastest marathons in their country: Majida Maayouf, with Moroccan roots, did so among women in 2:21:27 (almost five minutes less than Marta Galimany, her predecessor) and Tariku Novales, born in Ethiopia, among men in 2:05:48.