At one point, Tamirat Tola was there with the leading pack – shoulder to shoulder and shoe to shoe.
So he wasn’t. He left them so quickly. No question of catching it either.
Tola led a double by Ethiopia in the men’s marathon at the world championships on Sunday, opening a wide lead late in the race and crossing the finish line.
Tola, 30, finished in a championship record time of 2 hours, 5 minutes, 36 seconds on a fast, flat course that offered plenty of scenic views to soak up. His teammate Mosinet Geremew retained the silver, finishing 68 seconds behind Tola. Bashir Abdi of Belgium took bronze.
“I tried to prepare myself for a long time” for this, Tola said through an interpreter. “It was my dream.”
Even in dreams there are seldom victories by this conviction of a margin. Tola never looked back after walking away.
Well, maybe a few times. But no one was close to catching up as the 2017 world silver medalist continued to build and expand his lead. The previous championship record was 2:06:54, set by Kenya’s Abel Kirui at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin.
It’s a sign of Tola’s dominance: Geremew’s time also eclipsed the championship record. It was another silver medal for Geremew, who finished second at the world championships in the 2019 Doha heat.
“I am very happy because we have gold and silver,” Geremew said.
In 2019, Lelisa Desisa led the way for Ethiopia. On Sunday, however, the reigning world champion tried to follow but couldn’t keep up the pace. American racer and University of Oregon star Galen Rupp was in the lead pack for much of the race before falling back and finishing 19th. Rupp, 36, received loud cheers from fans lining the course, some of whom followed while riding their bikes.
It was a way of following Tola.
The real race was for the money, Abdi, 33, pushing Geremew to the finish before running out of steam. Cameron Levins of Canada was fourth and Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya was fifth. Kamworor is getting back to form after recovering from a broken leg he suffered when he was hit by a motorbike in 2020.
For Tebello Ramakongoana of Lesotho, it was quite a journey just to get to the starting line. He arrived in Portland after a journey of about 40 hours, but his luggage did not survive. This included its running gear.
Sandra Cress, who worked in the transportation operations office in Portland for World Athletics, helped him secure socks, leggings and a pair of Nike shoes.
“It was fun to be able to follow him in the race, and it was easy to recognize him as the only runner in white leggings,” Cress wrote in a text.
Ramakongoana finished 35th – and with a great story.
Runners were able to pick up the pace with temperatures hovering around a comfortable 57 degrees Fahrenheit (13.9 Celsius) and cloud cover. It’s quite a contrast to the conditions at the world championships in Doha when the men’s marathon was held at midnight to avoid the scorching heat. The temperature was still around 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 Celsius).
After a slight delay, 1972 Olympic marathon champion Frank Shorter started the race which sent runners on a three-loop course that finished in front of the University of Autzen Stadium. Oregon. The route passed through the towns of Eugene and Springfield.
The course crossed the Willamette River and ventured along Pre’s Trail, the running trail named for University of Oregon running icon Steve Prefontaine, who died in a car accident in 1975.
The field was missing Kengo Suzuki after the Japanese team had a few cases of testing positive for COVID-19. Also not running was Kenyan marathon runner Lawrence Cherono, who was provisionally suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit after testing positive for a banned substance.
More AP Sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports