On Sunday, April 6, one week after Kenya’s Leonard Patrick Komon lit up the streets of Berlin and notched the world’s fastest-ever half-marathon debut, Kenenisa Bekele came within 48 seconds of doing likewise over 26.2 miles.
Bekele’s time of 2:05:03 wasn’t quite enough to top the marathon debut record, but it was plenty for the 31-year-old Ethiopian to win the 2014 Paris Marathon. He also set a new course record, trimming eight seconds from the previous mark, set by Kenya’s Stanley Biwott in 2012.
Bekele ran uncontested for the final 45 minutes of the race, LetsRun.com reports, and even without the benefit of pacemakers, whom he dispatched soon after reaching the halfway point in 62:09, he finished well ahead of countryman Limenih Getachew, who took second with a time of 2:06:49. Kenya’s Luka Kanda finished third, crossing the finish line in 2:08:02.
Bekele’s performance was the sixth-fastest marathon debut in history, as the Daily Mail points out, and the speediest debut by a runner over the age of 30.
It’s just the latest in a string of achievements for the three-time Olympian, who holds world the records at 5000 and 10,000 meters. While Bekele faced virtually no challenge in the final stages, he began to feel some strain in his left thigh about eight kilometers from the finish.
“My hamstring muscle was not good,” Bekele told France 3 television, Yahoo reports. “It was cramping. I was worried.”
Luckily, he was able to hold on and win his first major title since 2009, when he won world titles in the 5000 and 10,000 meters in Berlin.
"It's my first marathon, I don't have experience before," he said. "It was very tough. Anyway, I made the time I expected."
“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