I asked Cathal Dennehy, one of our traveling global journalists on running, to write this piece on the fine Dublin Marathon, which will be one of my visits some day. Sorry for the delay! The race was held the week before New York.
Nice to see Sonia O’Sullivan running the marathon!
Ethiopia’s Alemu Gemechu took victory in a close men’s race at the Dublin Marathon on Monday in 2:14:01, while the women’s event was won with ease by Ukraine’s Nataliya Lehonkova in 2:31:08.
On what was a wet and windy day in Ireland’s capital, 15,000 runners from 62 countries toed the start line in Fitzwilliam Square knowing that fast times were an unlikely proposition.
With the wind at their backs over the opening miles, a group of nine men passed through 10K in 31:54, with Gemechu sheltering in a pack that included last year’s champion Eliud Too of Kenya.
At the halfway mark, which was reached in 67:05, the same group – which comprised of six Kenyans, two Ethiopians, and Russia’s Stepan Kiselev – led the way, with a two-minute advantage over the rest of the field.
The first to crack was Kenya’s Peter Somba, who fell away shortly after halfway mark, and eight men passed 30K together in 1:36:12. At 20 miles, Eliud Too moved to the front, cranking up the pace ahead of Francis Ngare and Irish-based Kenyan Freddy Sittuk, running in the colours of local club Raheny Shamrock.
Biding his time, meanwhile, was eventual champion Gemechu, who made his decisive move inside the last mile, powering away from Ngare up the home straight to take his first win at the Dublin Marathon. Ngare held on for second in 2:14:07, with Ethiopia’s Asefa Bekele taking third in 2:14:20.
“It was a very good race,” said Gemechu. “I am happy.”
The women’s event saw a much more decisive victory for Ukraine’s Nataliya Lehonkova, who carved almost four minutes off her personal best to take victory in 2:31:08.
Lehonkova was the only athlete to go with the early move of Kenya’s Esther Macharia, the defending champion who led through 10K in 35:56. At the halfway mark – reached in 75:18, Lehonkova had opened a 21-second lead over Macharia, with Kenya’s Grace Momanyi the closest pursuer, a further 22 seconds back.
At 30K, Lehonkova’s lead had grown to 36 seconds, and from there to the finish, it was clear that it would take a considerable meltdown for the Ukrainian to surrender the advantage. “I didn’t think about the win, because something can always happen, so I just kept focused on the moment,” said Lehonkova. “I didn’t look back. I just kept looking at my time and tried to keep my pace, and I wanted to beat my best time.”
Despite the gusting winds, the 33-year-old maintained well over the closing miles and by the time she broke the finishing tape in a personal best of 2:31:08, she had over a minute to spare on runner-up Grace Momanyi of Kenya, who ran 2:32:18.
Third place went to Ethiopia’s Tesfanesh Denbi in 2:34:43, with last year’s champion Macharia paying heavily for her fast start, eventually finishing fifth in 2:39:24.
“The weather really made it really hard to run fast,” said Lehonkova, “but this is my best time, my fastest. The course was nice, with a few hills, but it was always windy, so I was always pushing to keep up the pace. It slowed me down a lot in places.”
The race also incorporated the Irish national marathon championships, with SeÃ¡n Hehir taking the men’s title for the second time in 2:19:47. The women’s title went to former Olympian Pauline Curley, the 46-year-old coming home in 2:49:32.
Another notable competitor, who ran with much less intensity than in her competitive days, was Irish great Sonia O’Sullivan, who finished in 3:03:32.
“I really enjoyed it today,” she tweeted after the race. “Great people to run along with and the best ever crowd support all the way around.”