Hillary Yego proves a debutant’s delight in Athens Marathon

By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Nov 10, 2013
  • Hillary Yego winning the Athens Classic Marathon. (Photo:ACM)

Hillary Yego produced a major surprise by taking the Athens Classic Marathon on his debut at the distance.

In warm weather the Kenyan, little known on the international scene, ran 2:13:59 on the tough original course, leading from the town of Marathon to the Panathinaikon Stadium in Athens. Fellow Kenyans Dickson Cheruiyot (2:14:40) and David Rutoh (2:14:47) took second and third.

The defending champion Raymond Bett (Kenya) didn’t live up to his own pre-race expectations and dropped out shortly after halfway because of stomach problems.

Joan Rotich completed a Kenyan double, leading from the start and crossing the line in the old Olympic Stadium in 2:41:38. Svitlana Stanko of Ukraine was runner-up in 2:42:03 and Magda Gazea gave the home fans plenty to celebrate with a fine run for third place in 2:46:07.

While the course record remained intact, the organisers could reflect on record entries with 11,000 taking part in the 31st Athens Classic Marathon.

The leading men went through 10 k in 31:01, on course for breaking 2:11 which would have put Baldini's course record of 2:10:55 under pressure.

That had been the declared target of the defending champion and event record holder (2:11:35), Raymond Bett. The pace slowed en route to halfway, reached by a group of ten runners in 66:48. Shortly afterwards Bett dropped out because of stomach problems.

With more hills on the way to the highest point of the course at 32.5 k, the numbers who found going too tough grew. The lead group was reduced to a trio once the descent into Athens began: Yego, Cheruiyot and Rutoh. With 5 k to go Rutoh was dropped, then Yego made the decisive move just before the 40 k mark.

“This was my first marathon. And this is of course a perfect start for me. I am very happy, but it was very tough. The course is very hilly and when it finally sloped down into Athens it was getting very hot and humid,” said 27 year-old winner, who comes from Eldoret and trains with experienced marathon runners like Wilson Kibet and Sammy Kitwara.

Rotich early break pays off 

In contrast to the men’s race, one woman took the initiative from the start. Joan Rotich went to the front and quickly built a big lead.

When she passed 15 k in 54:10 minutes, the Kenyan was almost two and a half minutes ahead of Ukraine’s Svitlana Stanko. Rotich began to struggle on the hills and Stanko sensed her chance, cutting back the lead. Rotich had established too great an advantage, however, and Stanko crossed the finish line 25 seconds behind.

“I had hoped to run 2:32. And I was on course for that until 15 k. But then it got too tough,” said 25 year-old Rotich, who has a personal best of 2:33:56.