Florence, Italy – Ethiopia claimed a winning sweep at the 28th Florence Marathon in both men’s and women’s races thanks to Berga Birhanu Bekele who crossed the finish line first in 2:09:52 ahead of Gela Hailu Seifu (2:10:17) and favourite Asha Gigi, who won the women’s race in 2:31:36.
About 9000 runners toed the starting line at this IAAF Bronze Label Road Race from the Lungarnp Pecori Giraldi on a sunny day which with a temperature of 6°C. Conditions were ideal this year after rain and cold affected the 2010 edition. The 2011 edition of the Firenze Marathon was run for the first time on a new course from Lungarno Pecori Giraldi to Santa Croce Square.
Men’s race –
The leading group went through 5Km in 15:28 and 10km in 31:04. The eight-men pack featured Zembaba Yemanu from Ethiopia, Berga Bekele, Medhane Tekie from Eritrea, Hailu Gela Seifu from Ethiopia, Ronald Rutto from Kenya, Joseph Ngeny from Kenya, Abram Kidane from Ethiopia and Abdelkabir Saji from Morocco.
Seven men remained in the lead at 15 km which was reached in 46:04. They were Tekie, Seifu, Bekele, Rutto, Kidane, Yemanu and Saji. They kept a fast pace at 21 km (1:04:38) which indicated a final 2:09 time. After going through 25 km in 1:16:49, the pace slowed down a bit (the 29 and 30 km splits were clocked in 3:18 and 3:17). Bekele and Seifu surged the pace and broke away from the rest of the field at 32 km. They managed to carve out a gap of 21 seconds on Yemanu Zembaba who led the chasing group at 35 km.
At 39 km Bekele produced a decisive surge pulling away from Seifu and managed to run the final two kilometres under three minutes (2:54 and 2:56). Bekele romped home in 2:09:52 missing his PB by 11 seconds. It was his third time under 2:10 after Beijing 2011 (2:09:41) and Dubai 2011 (2:09:54).
Women’s race –
The Ethiopian leading duo formed by Asha Gigi and Tigist Memuye Gebeyahu set off at a very fast pace (17:28 at 5 km, 34:41 at 10 km and 51:08 at 15 km) well inside Jelena Javornik’s event record (2:28:15 set in 2002). The pace in the first half run which indicated a possible attack to the 2:25 barrier on the faster section of the new course was probably too fast and it took its toll in the second more challenging half.
Gigi and Memuye ran a neck-to-neck race until 21 km which they reached in 1:12:06. Gigi pulled away at 25 km and carved out a six-second gap over Memunye (1:25:59 to 1:26:05). She continued and increased the opened gap to more than 50 seconds at 30 km (1:44:01 to 1:44:56) but the pace faded dramatically. Gigi’s win was never threat. Moroccan Janat Hanane caught up with a fading Memunye for second place.
Gigi struggled in the final three kilometres which were run at splits over 4 minutes but she managed to defend her first place in 2:31:36 over Hanane who improved her PB from 2:38:34 (set in 2011 in Rome) to 2:34: 22.
To the delight of the Florence crowd in Santa Croce Square local favourite Gloria Marconi crossed the finish line in 2:34:57 at the age of 43 in her first marathon since 2006.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Leading Results –
1. Berga Bekele (Ethiopia) 2:09:52
2. Hailu Gela Seifu (Ethiopia) 2:10:17
3. Abdelkabir Saji (Morocco) 2:12:11
4. Zembaba Yemanu (Ethiopia) 2:14:03
5. Ronald Rutto (Kenya) 2:14:28
6. Philip Kiptoo Rutto (Kenya) 2:16:38
1. Asha Gigi (Ethiopia) 2:31:36
2. Janat Hanane (Morocco) 2:34:22
3. Gloria Marconi (Italy) 2:34:57
4. Tigist Memuye Gebeyahu (Ethiopia) 2:36:49