Ethiopian debutante breaks Kenyan women's stranglehold in StanChart Marathon

SINGAPORE - For the past four years, Kenyan runners have made the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) their own, sweeping all before them in the men's and women's races.

The last runner to break that stranglehold was Albina Ivanova of Russia in 2009 and, yesterday morning, it was Ethiopian runner Waganesh Amare's turn to upset the mighty Kenyans.

The last Ethiopian to claim victory at Singapore's premier marathon was Alem Ashebier in 2007, and not many expected Amare to repeat her countrywoman's feat given Kenya's dominance in the 42.195km run.

After all, Amare was making her SCMS debut, so it was no surprise that the odds were stacked against her.

But the 22-year-old ran the race of her life to hold off Kenyans Elizabeth Chemweno and Pauline Wangui to win the women's marathon in 2 hours, 46 minutes and 54 seconds.

Amare took home US$50,000 ($66,000) while the runner-up and second runner-up received US$20,000 and US$10,000 respectively.

With legendary countryman Haile Gebrselassie - who ran the 10km race - acting as her interpreter, Amare said: "I'm very happy to win the race here, especially because it's been won by Kenyans so many times.

"I really didn't expect to win but, despite feeling tired at the 39km mark, I knew that if I pushed a little, I could really win the race, so I persevered."

It was status quo in the men's marathon though, as the usual suspects took the top spots in a field of more than 53,000 runners.

Kenyans Kenneth Mungara, David Kiptui Tarus and Charles Kanyao completed a brilliant 1-2-3 respectively, cementing the African nation's status as kingpins of long-distance running.

Crossing the finish line at the Padang in 2:16:42, barber-turned-runner Mungara secured his second victory in Singapore and a winner's cheque of US$50,000, with the first one coming in 2010.

He confirmed that he will defend his SCMS title next year, and set sights on breaking compatriot Luke Kibet's course record of 2:11:25 set in 2009.

"The race today was very nice, the weather was good and I enjoyed it," said Mungara.

"I ran alone for much of the race (due to my big lead), so at times, it was a bit tougher to go even faster as I didn't have someone to push me.

"This is my last race for the year, and I'm going to go back home, relax and celebrate Christmas.

"But I aim to be back (in Singapore)next year and set a new course record."

For Gebrselassie, he insisted that he took part in the 10km just "to have fun" and, judging by his smile during the race, he certainly enjoyed yesterday's run.

Sportingly acknowledging shouts of "Haile" from supporters and fellow runners with his megawatt smile and hand-waving, the 41-year- old Ethiopian revelled in the experience, despite finishing third in 29 minutes and 58 seconds in unfamiliar conditions.

Said Gebrselassie: "Everything was great, except the weather. The humidity is not something I expected.

"The crowd in Singapore has been fantastic and I treated the race as a celebration. It's a wonderful atmosphere."

This article was first published on December 8, 2014.
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