Around the 38-kilometer mark at Sunday’s (April 27) Metro Group Marathon Dusseldorf, Annie Bersagel had a realization: She had a shot at winning.
The 31-year-old American had spent most of the race in third place, trailing Selomie Getnet of Ethiopia, who had been favored to win, and Winfrida Kwamboka of Kenya, but she kept gaining ground. At 30 kilometers, she passed Kwamboka, and eight kilometers later, she had her epiphany.
“I suddenly saw the leading car, and I realized that I’d made up ground quickly,” Bersagel said, according to LetsRun.com.
Bersagel overtook Getnet with three kilometers to go and held on for the win, finishing in 2:28:59, a personal best. The victory came roughly a month after her 13th-place finish at the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships in Copenhagen, where she finished in 1:10:10.
Getnet held on for second, crossing the finish line in 2:30.29, followed by Kenya’s Emily Ngetich, who had run with Bersagel for the first half of the race.
Due in part to Sunday’s cold, wet conditions, none of the women broke the Dusseldorf course record (2:25:49), and while the same was true in the men’s race, it was a much closer call. Winner Gilbert Yegon of Kenya won with a time of 2:08:07, missing the mark—2:07:48, run by defending champ Dereje Debele—by a mere 19 seconds.
Through the first half of the race, Yegon and 15 other runners—Debele among them—had the record in their sights, as they passed the midpoint at 63:31. From there, the front pack began to dwindle, and by 35 kilometers, when pacemaker Ronald Korir finished his job, the race had come down to five runners.
One was Ethiopia’s Endeshaw Negesse, who’d come into the race with the field’s fastest personal best (2:04:52). For a time, he seemed poised to win, but Yegon dug deeper, winning the second marathon of his career and first since Amsterdam in 2009.
“I had a look at him before I drew away and he did not look that strong any more,” Yegon said afterward.
“I am very happy to have won my second marathon now,” he added. “It was my aim to win the race and my goal was to run 2:06—but this was not possible in these conditions.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg