If Mare Dibaba’s New Year’s resolution was to reaffirm her greatness in the marathon, she can already pat herself on the back.
Competing January 2 at the 12th Xiamen International Marathon, the 24-year-old Ethiopian didn’t just win the race. As the IAAF reports, she jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, losing the pack before the 10K mark and ultimately finishing with a time of 2:21:36, a new course record.
Dibaba must have felt some relief, as Xiamen marked her fist marathon in 17 months. She’d run six prior—including the 2012 Dubai Marathon, where she achieved a personal best of 2:19:52—but she spent much of 2013 battling stomach problems that seriously derailed her training.
"I was very surprised at my time as I was running very easily and I was running alone,” Dibaba said after the race. “I didn't really pay much attention to the pace during the race. At times it felt like I was almost jogging, at 2:24-2:25 pace, and when I saw a clock at 39 kilometers I was surprised I was running so fast.”
Similarly impressive was fellow Ethiopian Meseret Legese, who finally broke the 2:30 mark after a 2013 filled with failed attempts. The 26-year-old came in second with a time of 2:26:36, a personal best. Behind her was Emebet Etea, who completed an Ethiopian podium sweep with her time of 2:33:51.
The men’s race couldn’t have been more different, as a crowded lead pack stayed together for the first 20K. From the get-go, the pace was too slow for much hope of a course record, but for winner Mariko Kiplagat, the day was far from a total loss.
The 38-year-old Kenyan made a key move at roughly the 30K mark, and over the next 10 kilometers, he opened up a lead of more than a minute en route to crossing the finish line in 2:08:06, the second-fastest time of his career. Kiplagat has now won six of the 11 marathons he’s finished since making his debut in 2006.
Rounding out the top three were Kenya’s Julius Muriuki, who came on strong in the final 10 kilometers and finished in 2:09:28, and Ethiopia’s Dereje Debele, who gave a good fight in the final stretch but took third with 2:09.35.
“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