For a moment, Tamirat Tola was right there with the lead pack – shoulder to shoulder and shoe to shoe.
Then, he was not. He left them so soon. Don’t even have to catch him.
Tola took a 1-2 lead over Ethiopia in the men’s marathon at the World Championships on Sunday, opening a wide lead late in the race and running through the finish line.
30-year-old Tola finished in a championship-record time of 2 hours, 5 minutes, 36 seconds on a fast and flat course with plenty of beautiful views. Behind Tola, Belgium’s Bashir Abdi grabbed the bronze medal.
“I tried to prepare myself for this for a long time,” Tola said through an interpreter. “It was my dream.”
Even in dreams, this margin rarely leads to victory. Tola never looked back after retreating.
Well, maybe several times. But no one was even close to catching up as the 2017 world silver medalist continued to build and build on her lead. The previous championship record was 2:06:54, set by Abel Kirui of Kenya at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin.
This is a sign of Tola’s dominance: Geremeau’s time surpassed even the championship record. It was another silver for Geremeau, who finished as world runner-up in the 2019 heat of Doha.
“I’m very happy because we have gold and silver,” said Geremeau.
In 2019, Lelisa Desisa paved the way for Ethiopia. On Sunday, however, the defending world champions tried to keep up but could not keep up the pace. American sprinter and University of Oregon standout Galen Rupp was in the dominant group for most of the race before retreating and finishing 19th. Roop, 36, was met with loud applause from fans who lined the course, some of whom were walking along while riding bikes.
It was a way to keep up with Tola.
The real race was for silver, with 33-year-old Abdi pushing all the way to the finish before running out of steam. Canada’s Cameron Levins was fourth and Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamwor fifth. Kamwor is back in form in 2020 after recovering from a broken leg after being hit by a motorcycle.
For Lesotho’s Tebelo Ramkongona, it was quite a journey to reach the starting line. He arrived in Portland after a journey of about 40 hours, but his luggage was not made. Including his running gear.
Sandra Kress, who was working at the transportation operations desk in Portland for World Athletics, helped her secure socks, leggings and a pair of Nike shoes.
“It was fun to be able to follow him in races, and it was easy to pick him up as the only runner in white leggings,” Kress wrote in a text.
Ramkongoana finished 35th – and with a great story.
Runners were able to keep up the pace while hovering at a comfortable temperature of 57 degrees Fahrenheit (13.9 Celsius) and cloud cover. This is in stark contrast to the conditions in the world in Doha when the men’s marathon was held at midnight to escape the scorching heat. The temperature was still around 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 Celsius).
A short time later, 1972 Olympic marathon champion Frank Shorter signaled the start of the race, sending runners along a three-loop course that ended in front of the University of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium. The route wound through the cities of Eugene and Springfield.
The course passed over the Willamette River and paralleled the Pree Trail, a bark running trail named in honor of University of Oregon running icon Steve Prefontaine, who died in a car accident in 1975.
Kengo Suzuki was missing in the area after a few cases of the Japanese team testing positive for COVID-19. Also not racing was Kenyan marathoner Lawrence Cherono, who was provisionally suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit after testing positive for a banned substance.