Kenya’s Titus Ekiru was the surprise victor at the 33rd edition of the Zurich Maratón de Sevilla on Sunday (19), improving the course record at this IAAF Silver Label Road Race to 2:07:43. In the women’s race, Spain’s Paula González successfully defended her title with a massive career best of 2:28:54.
Perfectly paced by Spain’s Jesús España, the men’s race kicked-off at a steady 3:02 clip to target the 2:08:14 course record set last year. The opening 10 kilometres were covered in 30:28 with all the key favourites comfortably travelling behind the two pacesetters, España and Amanuel Mesel of Eritrea.
Pacing over the same circuit which witnessed his debut last season, España led the top group exactly until the half marathon point, with the clock reading a promising 1:04:05. Seven men were in contention, the nearest being unheralded 25-year-old Ekiru and compatriot Shadrack Kipkosgei.
Once Mesel – a 2:08:17 marathon runner who lives for much of the year in Madrid – took command of the race the tempo heated up by some four seconds per kilometre. That whittled down the group gradually and by the 30 kilometre point only four men remained in contention: the Kenyan trio of Ekiru, Kipkosgei and Kipkemboi Kinsang and Ethiopian Tariku Kebede, a 2:12 performer. Mesel dropped out after signing off on a brisk 29:40 10km split to leave the favourites on a perfect path to crack 2:08.
From then on the race turned into a marvellous exhibition from Ekiru, who dictated the pace relentlessly despite the modest career bests of 1:02:26 and 2.15:43 he brought to Seville. He left his three pursuers behind some 1:48 into the race with six kilometres remaining. His 2:00:50 split at the 40th kilometre clearly suggested the course record was going to be broken although Ekiru still had to hold off Kebede, who was still in pursuit during the waning stages in the stadium.
Ekiru held on for the victory in 2:07:43, five seconds clear of the Ethiopian who was contesting his third marathon. Kipkosgei completed the podium in 2:08:26, a career best by more than a minute.
“It’s true that my PB was only 2:15:43 but I’ve been training with several 2:05 marathoners in recent months and I managed to follow their pace in our training sessions so I knew I could run quite fast,” Ekiru said. “Anyway, I didn’t expect to win.”