Gena Siraj, Barefoot In Rome, Rain-Soaked in Beijing, by Pat Butcher, note by Larry Eder

                                                  Siraj winning 2010 Beijing, photo

Gena Siraj won a rain soaked 2010 Beijing Marathon in 2:15:46. Then, why is Pat Butcher, our global runner waxing so poetically about the race? Read on, inquisitive readers.....



                                     Gena Siraj, winner of 2010

                     Beijing Marathon, photo by



Gena Siraj of Ethiopia won a rain-lashed Beijing Marathon on Sunday morning, but the 25 year old only eased clear of 38 year old Gert Thys of South Africa in the final kilometre; and the dreadful conditions resulted in a winning time of 2.15.45, one of the slowest times in the event's 30 year history. 


Thys, in what he reckoned was probably his 40th marathon in a career that began at the age of 13, finished second in 2.15.56 and pacemaker Matthew Sigei of Kenya stayed in the reckoning after his stint at the front, and came back from sixth place with 10k to run, to finish third in 2.16.01


The Chinese can control many things, including it seems the potential showers which might have ruined the Olympic opening ceremony two years ago. But truly bad weather is beyond anyone's aegis. The tail-end of a typhoon from the south east colliding with a cold front from the north-west left many of the competitors shivering and cramping even before they had finished the race.


Siraj managed to get out through chattering teeth, "I thought I could win at the 35 kilometre point," before he went off to doping control. His coach, Haji Adillo Roba added, "He trained and prepared really well for this. In good weather I think he can do two-six, two-seven (2.06/07)".


Last year's winner and race favorite, Sammy Mugo dropped off the pace at 35k, and finished sixth. He said, "It wasn't too bad for the first 10k, but the temperature dropped during the race, and with the water splashing up on our legs, I started to cramp, and that slowed me down".


Winner Siraj comes from Arsi in southern Ethiopia, the same province as the legendary Haile Gebrselassie. But it was another Ethiopian legend he invoked in winning his breakthrough race in Rome earlier this year. In honour of the great Abebe Bikila, who won his first Olympic title, running barefoot in Rome 1960, Siraj took off his shoes with 50 metres to run in the Eternal City six months ago, and still won in 2.08.39.


There was almost another Olympic city coincidence for Thys. He looked good throughout, and seemed as if he might emulate Romanian Constantina Dita who won the Olympic title here two years ago, at the age of 38. But Thys tailed off just before 41k, as the leaders passed the Bird's Nest, and headed for the finish in the old (but still very impressive) national stadium just south of the Olympic venue.


The women's race was a one-two for China. Former winner Chen Rong was a long-time leader, with her colleague and training partner Wang Jiali nowhere to be seen. But Wang appeared on the close horizon with 35 of the 42.195k completed, and swept past her pal shortly afterwards, to win in 2.29.31, fifteen seconds ahead of Chen. Another Chinese, Wang Xiao Shu was third in 2.30.21, and the People's Republic dominated proceedings, with eight in the top ten.


A light drizzle had already slicked the streets prior to the 08.00 start in a Tiananmen Square illumined by two giant screens whose high definition was in stark contrast to the prevailing murk. But minutes after the start, the rain began to fall in earnest, followed 30 minutes later by a drop in temperature which was to make the race even more of a trial. But though he seemed after the race to have suffered more than his immediate pursuers, Siraj was more than equal to the race for first, and he goes back to his now home of Addis Ababa to consider the next move in his chase after the running legends.




place/name                     country       time            prize



1 Gena SIRAJ                ETH            2.15.45

2 Gert THYS                 SAF            2.15.56

3 Matthew SIGEI           KEN           2.16.01

4 HE Ping                      PRC            2.16.52

5 TIAN Menxu              PRC            2.17.31

6 Sammy MUGO           KEN           2.17.49

7 YAN Longfei              PRC            2.17.52

8 Nicholas KANAKYA KEN           2.18.13

9 UMEKI Kurao            JPN             2.18.41

10 YIN Shunjin             PRC            2.18.57



1WANG Jiali                 PRC            2.29.31

2 CHEN Rong               PRC            2.29.46

3 WANG Xiao Shu        PRC            2.30.21

4 WEI  Yanan                PRC            2.30.46

5 Winfrida NYANSIKERA/KEN     2.32.50

6 SUN Weiwei               PRC            2.33.46

7 JIANG Xiaoli              PRC            2.33.56

8 CHANG Jinxue          PRC            2.34.15

9 Olesya NURGALIEVA/RUS                   2.34.37

10 CHEN Hui Rong       PRC            2.35.41

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