ATHLETICS: Hot conditions don’t stop Desisa from impressive 2:10:40 win as Ethiopia goes 1-2 in men’s marathon

World Champion at last: Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa

It was hot again for the men’s World Championships marathon that began at midnight local time in Doha (QAT), but the Ethiopian fans who waited at the finish line weren’t unhappy as their heroes went 1-2.

The temperature was 86 degrees (F) with 47% humidity, a little less oppressive than for the women a week before, but still very challenging. There were 73 starters and Derlys Ayala of Paraguay ran to the front almost immediately.

Ayala, who had run 2:10:27 for a lifetime best this season, had a lead of more than a minute at 15 km, but he was caught just past the 20 km mark by Zersenay Tadese (ERI), who led at the half in 1:05:56. Ayala paid for his early pacing and abandoned the race shortly afterwards.

A group of 5-6 runners continued together through 35 km, including Stephen Mokoka (RSA), Amos Kipruto (KEN), Tadese and Ethiopian stars Mosinet Geremew (the national record holder at 2:02:55) and Lelisa Desisa (2013 and 2015 winner in Boston and 2018 New York City winner).

Tadese was the first to break, but he was passed by Britain’s Callum Hawkins – fourth in 2017 – who had patiently worked his way back to the leading group by the 40 km mark and even took the lead shortly afterwards. With a mile to go, Hawkins led and the race was down to four, with Kipruto, Desisa and Geremew in close attendance as Mokoka lost contact.

With only 1,200 m to go, Hawkins was dropped and Kipruto, Desisa and Geremew were running three abreast. Desisa pushed the pace and dropped Kipruto with 800 m left and it was the two Ethiopians to the finish line.

Desisa kept pouring on the speed and broke from Geremew at the 42 km line and in an all-out sprint, he won in 2:10:40, with Geremew at 2:10:44. Kipruto held on for bronze and Hawkins was fourth for the second World Championships in a row.

Desisa won a World Champs silver in 2013 in Moscow and said afterwards he prepared “perfectly” for the conditions he knew he would face and controlled the race on purpose to be sure he would win. He was right all along.

Of the 73 starters, it appears that 18 did not finish. The crowd was much smaller than for the women’s marathon, which was more of a novelty as it came on the first night of the event. Summary:

Marathon: 1. Lelisa Desisa (ETH), 2:10:40; 2. Mosinet Geremew (ETH), 2:10:44; 3. Amos Kipruto (KEN), 2:10:51; 4. Callum Hawkins (GBR), 2:10:57; 5. Stephen Mokoka (RSA), 2:11:09; 6. Zersenay Tadese (ERI), 2:11:29; 7. El Hassan El Abbassi (BRN), 2:11:44; 8. Hamza Sahli (MAR), 2:11:49. Also: 23. Ahmed Osman (USA), 2:16:22; … 38. Elkanah Kibet (USA), 2:19:33; … 46. Andrew Epperson (USA), 2:23:11.