Kenyans Brimin Misoi and Shelmith Muriuki won the 36th edition of the Athens Marathon in testing conditions. In warm weather with temperatures going above 20 Celsius, Misoi took the lead early and ran alone for almost 15 kilometres. The 29-year-old clocked a strong 2:10:56, the third fastest time ever on the tough, original marathon course from the town of Marathon to Athens. The tall Kenyan ran a personal best for good measure and was almost two minutes ahead of Workneh Tiruneh, who finished second in a personal best of 2:12:52. Fellow-Ethiopian Mengist Azmeraw Gereme took third in 2:13:20.
In challenging conditions Shelmith Muriuki finished with 2:36:46 inside the old Panathinaic Olympic Stadium. Drawing deep upon her reserves, the 34-year-old was rewarded with a personal best. Rebby Koech of Kenya was second with 2:38:54. Eleftheria Petroulaki of Greece gave spectators further cause for celebration by finishing third in her debut marathon with 2:46:09, having won the Athens Half Marathon on March 18.
A record number of 18,750 runners had entered the 36th edition of the „Athens Marathon. The Authentic“. Adding shorter races held in conjunction with the main event there were 55,000 runners involved. While the Athens race is usually a day to celebrate distance running, the mood was different as the runners reached 12 kilometres and for the next four as they passed through the small town of Mati, one of the areas devastated by fire in late July. The scorched earth on either side of the road was a poignant reminder of the loss of life but there was also hope for regeneration marked by the marathon’s launch of the “Runners’ Forest” project. Runners were given a green bandana or headband to wear as part of the project to raise funds for tree planting along this section of the course. More information for the fund raising project can be found at: www.act4greece.gr
Five men reached halfway in 65:48, following a single pacemaker. Apart from the eventual winner Misoi and the Ethiopian duo of Tiruneh and Gereme, the Kenyans Bernard Chepkwony and Alex Bartilol were also in contention. The pace was too strong for the fastest man in the field, Felix Keny, despite his lifetime best of 2:07:41 and he later dropped out.
The decisive moment came surprisingly early, a few kilometres before the long climb when Brimin Misoi forced the pace which broke the field apart. By 30 kilometres the Kenyan, whose best hitherto had been 2:12:39 to win the Nairobi Marathon last year, had an eleven second lead over Gereme and Tiruneh. The Ethiopians dropped further behind while Misoi showed no weakness on the long descent into the heart of Athens: “It was hard but I felt very good and had trained three months for this race. It is certainly a tough marathon,” he said. As a measure of Brimin Misoi’s achievement, only two men have run faster than his winning time on this course: his fellow Kenyan Felix Kandie, winner of the 2014 Athens Marathon in 2:10:37, and Stefano Baldini of Italy, who ran 2:10:55 to win the Olympic title in 2004.
The leading trio in the first half of the women’s race were Shelmith Muriuki, Rebby Koech and Naomi Limamurei, running together. Soon after the group passed 10k in 36:17, that formation dissolved. Muriuki was the only one able to maintain the same pace on the undulating course, living up to the pedigree which saw her finish tenth in this year’s Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast and win the Nairobi Marathon at altitude in her then best of 2:38:48 two years ago. She went through halfway in 1:17:50, almost a minute ahead of Rebby Koech. Some way further behind was Limamurei who was subsequently overtaken by Eleftheria Petroulaki and finished fourth.
There was precious little chance of Shelmith Muriuki being caught on her way to victory in the Panathinaic Stadium. She had given so much by the time she crossed the finish line, she at first needed to recover, sitting in a wheelchair. The runner-up Rebby Koech confirmed how demanding the course had been: “That was the toughest race I’ve ever run. I’ve never run in conditions like this.”
1. Brimin Misoi KEN 2:10:56
2. Workneh Tiruneh ETH 2:12:52
3. Mengist Azmeraw Gereme ETH 2:13:20
4. Alex Bartilol KEN 2:15:14
5. Bernard Chepkwony KEN 2:15:52
6. Alex Chesakit UGA 2:19:18
7. Kostas Gelaouzos GRE 2:21:54
8. Christoforos Merousis GRE 2:23:43
1. Shelmith Muriuki KEN 2:36:46
2. Rebby Koech KEN 2:38:54
3. Eleftheria Petroulaki GRE 2:46:09
4. Naomi Limamurei KEN 2:47:49