Ethiopians Gebreslase and Adola win Berlin marathon as Bekele falls short in world record bid

Three-time Olympic track gold medallist Bekele had been tipped to challenge Kipchoge's men's mark, but finished third behind Adola and Kenya's Bethwel Yegon as Gotytom Gebreslase claimed women's race honours in her first marathon.

By Evelyn Watta
Picture by GETTY IMAGES

Ethiopia’s Guye Adola shocked triple Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele to win the Berlin marathon men’s race.

Adola, running in only his fourth marathon, broke away from pre-race favourite Bekele with around 7km to go of the 42.2km course on Sunday, September 26.

His winning time was 2:05.45 in the German capital.

It was great return for 30-year-old Adola after his incredible debut in 2007 when he placed second behind the world record holder and double Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge.

Three-time Olympic track champion Bekele, who by halfway was in world record pace at 61.00, finished third, as Kenya’s Bethwel Yegon came through in the closing stages to claim second in a thrilling race.

Adola's big day

It was an astonishing win for Adola who interestingly hails from the Adola town in the Southern part of Ethiopia, after his fastest marathon-debut ever of 2:03.46 behind Kipchoge in 2017 on the same course.

His compatriot Bekele, who was tipped to defend his title and attack the world record, had a disappointing return to Berlin. He ran his personal best in the German city two years ago when he missed the world record of 2:01.39 by just two seconds.

In the 2021 edition, the pacers pulled Bekele to an incredible 61.00 minutes at the halfway mark, though he seemingly struggled and had dropped off the pace and behind the leaders for several kilometers.

The pace considerably slowed down at the 25km allowing Bekele who just recovered from Covid nine months ago, to catch up again with the lead pack mostly controlled by Adola.

The two Ethiopians then pushed the pace before the towering Adola broke off around the 35km mark, opening a lead that was only briefly threatened by the surprise podium finisher, Kenyan Yegon.

The 2014 world half marathon bronze medallist Adola who, like Bekele, missed out on the Ethiopian Olympic marathon team, held on to win convincingly, his biggest career achievement.

Yegon, who before Berlin had only managed 14th at the Sienna marathon last April, took second with a PB of 2:06.14, with Bekele third in 2:06.47.

Debut win for Gebreslase

It was a double Ethiopian victory in Berlin as Gotytom Gebreslase won the women’s race, a beautiful marathon debut for the 26-year-old.

Gebreslase clocked 2:20:09, leading an Ethiopian sweep of the podium. Hiwot Gebrekidan placed second in 2:21.23 with Helen Tola third in 2:23.05.

The East African runners also ruled the streets of Madrid with the Ethiopian pair of Abdela Godana Gemeda taking the men’s titles in 2:10.14 while Kasu Bitew Lemeneh won the women’s race in 2:29.08.

Other major marathons taking place during the northern hemisphere autumn include the 2021 London marathon next Sunday, 3rd October, Chicago marathon on Sunday 10th October, and Boston marathon on Monday 11th October and New York Marathon on Sunday November 7. Bekele plans to run in New York just 42 days after his Berlin race.