Photos by Giancarlo Columbo – There were breakout victories for hitherto little known Daniel Mateiko of Kenya and Tsigie Gebreselama of Ethiopia in the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates early Saturday morning. And the imperious manner of their wins on a breezy, humid morning with a sea mist invading the latter stages suggests they both have a very bright future. Yet the contrast in their race-winning tactics could hardly have been greater. Mateiko led from the gun, and only conceded the lead for brief periods, before outgunning his colleagues John Korir and Isaia Lasoi in the final kilometre, to win in a world leading 58min 45sec. Korir and Lasoi finished five and ten seconds behind respectively.

 In contrast, Gebreselama contented herself to stay in the pack until she was ready to strike for home in the last five kilometres. Only former world record holder (64.31) and 2020 winner, colleague Ababel Yeshaneh could go with her, but that challenge didn’t last long. And such was Gebreselama’s attritional pace that by the time she crossed the line in 65.14, Yeshaneh was exactly half a minute in arrears. Jackline Sakilu of Tanzania was the surprise of the day, setting a national record of 66.05 in third place. What was no surprise was that the podium places were taken by athletes from three East African countries who share the same topography, the high altitude plateau of the Great Rift Valley.

Konstanze Klosterhalfen of Germany threatened to gatecrash that exclusive club up to the hallway point in a race, having come directly from her own training camp in Ethiopia. But, having headed the field up to 10k, which she passed in 31.09, which would have been a PB had she finished the race, she tailed off drastically and dropped out shortly afterwards, saying she did not feel well.

Olympic marathon champion, Peres Jepchirchir had been one of the favourites to win, but in the bustle of the start, someone trod on her heel and she lost around 20sec putting her shoe back on. Surprisingly for someone with her long experience, instead of working her way gradually back to the group, she shot off and rejoined them before they had completed the first kilometre. She paid for that unnecessary effort in the closing stages, and could only finish seventh in 67.19.

Gebreselama was not entirely unknown prior to today; she finished second in the world cross country championships in Australia last year. ‘That was my best performance, but today is better than that, because I won,’ she said after the race. ‘I knew I was in good shape. I think I like cross country and road running equally, but now I must prepare for the track’. In a reversal of tradition, she is leaving here for a four-month stint in an altitude training camp in the USA, before she runs the Ethiopian trials with the intent on making the Olympic team at 10,000 metres.

Having been told that there was no pacemaker in the men’s race, we wondered why Mateiko, who led from the gun kept consulting his watch and checking over his shoulder at his pursuers. Maybe he was surprised they were still there for so long, right up to the final kilometre. But having done all work, he was rewarded with a more than worthy victory, then engagingly stated that that was his intent throughout the race. ‘After finishing second last year, I promised myself to win. But the conditions were difficult; it was windy and very humid.’

Mateiko hails from Mount Elgon on the Kenya-Uganda border, but now trains in Eldoret with twice Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge under the tutelage of former steeplechaser Patrick Sang. ‘Patrick told me I was in good shape, but to be strong-minded. And Eliud is giving me advice too. I would like to have his consistency. Now my dream is to run well in the London Marathon’. If his marathon debut is as impressive as his win here today, the London crowds in April will be in for a treat.

Results, Men:

1 Daniel Mateiko KEN 58:45

2 John Korir KEN 58:50

3 Isaia Lasoi KEN 58:55

4 Gerba Dibaba ETH 59:38

5 Benard Koech KEN 59:42

6 Birhanu Legese ETH 59:43

7 Tamirat Tola ETH 59:46

8 Amos Kibiwot KEN 59:51

9 Boki Diriba ETH 60:10

10 Alphonce Simbu TAN 60:28


1 Tsigie Gebreselama ETH 65:14

2 Ababel Yeshaneh ETH 65:44

3 Jackline Sakilu TAN 66:05

4 Margaret Chelimo KEN 66:31

5 Evaline Chirchir KEN 66:36

6 Catherine Amanang’ole KEN 66:49

7 Peres Jepchirchir KEN 67:19

8 Gete Alemayehu ETH 67:25

9 Megertu Alemu ETH 69:23

10 Ashete Bekere ETH 70:03

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