KENYAN CHEMTAI, ETHIOPIAN ESHETU SET EVENT RECORDS AT EUGENE MARATHON
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission.
EUGENE, OREGON (27-Jul) — Flawless marathon conditions paved the way to a pair of event records here at the eighth annual Eugene Marathon, as Kenya’s Jacob Chemtai and Ethiopia’s Degefa Biruktayit Eshetu claimed victories in 2:16:07 and 2:33:14, respectively. Each took home $3,000 to go with their titles as Champions of TrackTown USA.
“It was nice. I thank God,” said an extremely shy Chemtai, who won the Go! St. Louis Half-Marathon earlier this year.
Running through the University of Oregon campus, passing the lush Amazon Park, and racing along the picturesque Willamette River, the men’s raced stayed as a pack affair through 11 miles. That’s when Chemtai chose to make it an all African duel out front, quickening the pace.
Only Ethiopian Teklu Deneke would respond, joining Chemtai through 39 kilometers. With the finish in historic Hayward Field less than two miles away, Chemtai once again injected a surge.
“I try to push and he comes. Then we say, maybe 40 [kilometers],” Chemtai described, signalling with his hand a clear ‘go’ gesture. Deneke simply didn’t have the pop left in his legs to respond and challenge for the laurel wreath.
“When he changes his finishing, I can’t keep the pace,” said Deneke, looking at his tired legs.
Breaking the tape in 2:16:07, Chemtai wowed the Hayward Field crowd by shaving four minutes from the previous event record of 2:20:09.
“Course was very good,” Chemtai said in a barely audible tone, pleased with his title.
Deneke took second some 12 seconds behind, 2:16:19 his time.
“I’m very happy because these [last] two years I was injured so I just came back from injury,” said the Flagstaff, Ariz.-based Deneke, 35.
Eugene’s own Clint Coleman and Travis Faherty took third and fourth in 2:23:26 and 2:25:13, while Silverton, Ore.’s Rudy Gilman was fifth in 2:25:22.
The most dominant performance of the day was turned in by Eshetu. Making a clear break at 10 kilometers, Eshetu ran without a female competitor in sight for nearly two hours, something she was completely fine with.
“I have run 2:29 marathon. I was comfortable [at the pace],” she told Race Results Weekly in between sips of water.
The crowds lining Hayward Field’s west grandstand were taken by surprise seeing a woman enter the stadium with 2:32 reading on the clock. Completing the final 200 meters on the track, Eshetu finished in 2:33:15.
“Very nice, very very nice course,” said Eshetu, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd when it was announced she had shattered the course record by nearly ten minutes. “It is very special.”
Fellow Ethiopian Yado Elfneshe Melaku took second in 2:41:12.
Lauren Johnson of Portland, Ore., came into the homestretch with a large grin across her face, smiling for good reason. Taking third in 2:41:25, Johnson dipped under the 2:43:00 U.S. Olympic Trials “B” standard.
“It was outstanding,” said Johnson, sporting a Nike kit. “I’ve spent a lot of time watching track meets, watching races in Eugene, so it’s fun to actually be out here and run my heart out and finish in Hayward Field. It was fantastic.”
Johnson took home a $1,500 Olympic Trials qualifier bonus to go with her $1,000 third place check.
“I have never raced a marathon hard. I’ve run a couple for fun so I didn’t know what this would feel like. It actually felt pretty good,” she said. “The last couple miles I dug and tried to make it count. I didn’t hit a wall and the weather cooperated. It was a great time.”
The Eugene Marathon serves as the kick off to the final day of the IAAF World Junior Championships. Distance event finals in the men’s 800m and 3000m steeplechase, as well as the women’s 1500m, will be contested this afternoon. Highly touted Americans Alexa Efraimson and Elise Cranny look to finish on the podium in the 1500m.
PHOTO: Ethiopia’s Degefa Biruktayit Eshetu wins the 2014 Eugene Marathon in an event record 2:33:14 (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)