Sometimes we get surprised.
Today was one of them. While I knew Valary Aiyabei, I did not expect her to imitate Mary Keitany, a fellow Kenyan marrathoner. Aiyabei went out hard and did not stop, until she broke 2:20, her stated pre race goal.
Valary Jemeli Aiyabei breaks Course record in 2:19:10 at Mainova Frankfurt Marathon, photo by PhotoRun.net
Valary Jemeli Aiyabai had a goal.
She wanted to break 2 hours and 20 minutes at Frankfurt.
And she went at it with a very particular focus.
From the very start, Valary went out hard, hitting the 5k in 15:38 and the 10k in 31:44! In my social media, I noted that the pace was, and I quote, “insane.” I stand by my early comments, as her race was a portal into an amazing future.
That did not stop Valary. In fact, the splits at 5k, 10, and 15k were on the world record pace (15:38-31:44-47:45). Valary was being paced by he husband, Kenneth Tarus, stopped at 15k, with stomach distress. “I then had to go on by myself, for my family and team, ” noted Valary Aiyabrei.
Aiyabei did not stop. She built her lead, between 15k and 20k to 75 seconds over Lonah Salpeter. When Valary Jemeli Aiyabai passed the halfway in 1:07.42, we knew something special was happening. But, how fast could she go?
It was not that Lonah Salpeter or Meskeram Aseffa wee going slow, it was that Aiyabei was going so darn fast! Check this out! 5k in 15:38, 10k in 31;44, 15k in 47:45, and she was catching men!
Aiyabei hit 20k in 1:04:45, one minute and 39 seconds ahead of Lonah Salpeter, one minute, 40 seconds ahead of Mergetu Kebede, and one minute 41 ahead of Meskerem Aseffa, who were in battle.
The challenge in communicating the story on the women’s race is how multi-layered it was, so i will take one story at a time…
Valary did not look in any distress as she broke the course record. All we knew was that Aiyabei (I was calling her Valary Jemeli)’s PB of 2:20.53, (Berlin 2017) was about to change drastically.
Valary hit 25k in 1:20:42, still on sub 2:16 pace, and she did not quit. Valary Aiyabei has a quick, long, stride and she looked as efficient at 30k as she did at 10k, but the strain was beginning to show. Each kilometer, Aiyabei picked up on the men ahead of her, including a Polish athlete who had run 2:13:20. In the marathon, as in all of our sport, we are only as good as our last race.
Valary Aiyabei was relentless, but she also is human. At 30k, (18.6 miles), Valary hit 1:36.48, still on sub 2:18 pace, and she had 1:53 on second place Mergetu Kebede, who hit 30k in 1:38:41.
Dominating is the word I must use for the diminutive Kenyan, who lived up to all of the dreams of elite coordinator Christoph Kopp, who hoped she could go sub two hours, twenty minutes.
Valary Aiyabei hit 35k in 1:53.28, and 40k in 2:11;00, taking her lead to 2:56 over Megertu Kebede, who was not giving up. In fact, between 40k and 42.2k, Kebede cut Aiyabei’s lead by one minute exactly, as Valary Jemeli Aiyabei won the 2019 Mainova Frankfurt Marathon in 2:19.10.
Megertu Kebede took second in 2:21.:10, kissing the ground, as did Aiyabei before her.
Meskerem Asefa had a scare, falling ten meters before the finish, as the defending champion ran 2:22.11. In fourth, Lonah Salpeter ran 2:23:11, and in fifth, 2015 Boston champ Caroline Rotich scored a fine PB in 2:24.42.
Two short story lines here:
Stephanie Twell, went out conservatively, in her second marathon, hitting the half way point in 1:12.54, and went 2:26:40, a fine PB (3:31) and under the Olympic qualifying mark of 2:29:30, hopefully garnering a smile from the British selectors. Steph Twell was 8th.
In tenth place, Katharina Heinig Steinruck negative splitted and was joyful at the finish. Practically German athletic royalty, Katharina Steinruck, a German police officer, married to a German police officer, hit the half in 1:14;10, finishing in 1:13:16, to set a PB of 2:27:26, also under the 2:29:30 Olympic standard, and hopefully putting her in second position on the 2019-2020 German list. Katharina trains under the watchful eye of her mother, Katrin Dorre Heinig, head of German distance coaching, and Wolfgang Heinig, retired head of Federation coaching, and current coach of Gesa Krause, WC bronze medalist in the steeplechase in Doha.
In closing, Valary Aiyabei looks poised to greatness. She noted post event, ” I started so fast because I thought I could hang on later, and I slowed down.”
Valary Aiyabei was so big in Frankfurt that her performance was the performance of the weekend! Watch this name, as she will be someone who can challenge 2:18, 2:17 and perhaps, 2:16.
2019 Mainova Frankfurt Marathon, Women, Final, 1. Valary Jemil, KEN, 2:19:10 PB, 2. Megertu Alemu, ETH, 2:21.10, 3. Meskerem Assefa, ETH, 2:22.11, 4. Lonah Salpeter, Israel, 2:23:11, 5. Caroline Rotich, KEN, 2:24.42, PB, 6. Askale Wegi ETH 2:25:03, 7. Sylvia Kibet KEN 2:26:04, 8. Stephanie Twell GBR 2:26:40, 9. Hiwot Yemer ETH 2:26:40, 10. Katharina Steinruck GER 2:27:26.