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Race records broken at Beirut Marathon as Lebanon sends a message of peace to the world

Kenya’s Dominic Ruto broke the men’s race record to win Beirut Marathon. (Photo: Beirut Marathon Association)
by Rayane Moussallem, AIPS Media

LAUSANNE, November 12, 2017 - Beirut Marathon Association organizers got what they were looking for as two event records were set on Sunday November 12 when Kenya’s Dominic Ruto broke the men’s race record in 2:10:41 while Bahrain’s Eunice Chumba recorded 2:28:38 in the women’s race to beat the previous records by 23 seconds and 34 seconds respectively.

The Beirut Marathon Association (BMA) changed this year’s course and made it faster and flatter in order to help athletes set personal records and in turn, event records. The efforts paid off, as the new course and the low humidity and temperature in Lebanese capital - a maximum of 23 degrees Celsius at the finish line also played a role.

Dominic Ruto had to outsprint Ethiopia’s Adane Amsalu at the finishing straight to beat him by just four seconds while defending champion and Ruto’s compatriot Edwin Kiptoo had to settle for third place with 2:11:56.

“When I was at 38 kilometres, I realised my body was good and I realised that I could catch them because there were three in the front. My body was ok and so I managed to push and to catch them at 40 kilometres,” Ruto said after the race.

Chumba, who is of Kenyan origin, pulled away from defending champion Ethiopian Tigist Girma in the last 10 kilometers to win the gold. However, this didn’t stop Girma from setting a personal best of 2:29:00, as did her compatriot and bronze medal winner Debeb Getachew who recorded a PB of 2:30:31.

“I decided to try to win at about 32 kilometres. I said ‘let me try to win the race’. My PB is 2:24, but I am happy to get the course record. I was trying just for the course record. The course was a nice course. It was really a flat course,” a happy Chumba said.

Bahrain’s Eunice Chumba wins Beirut Marathon. (Photo: Beirut Marathon Association)

Among the Lebanese runners, defending champion Hussein Awada from the Lebanese Army came out victorious in 2:34:15 while Olympic athlete and defending champion Chirine Njeim set a PB in the Beirut Marathon in 2:45:00 to win the women’s race, knowing that she set a career PB in Chicago last August in Chicago Marathon in 2:39:21.

The Beirut Marathon Association was awarded the Silver label road race by IAAF in 2014 following the Bronze label award in 2010, and now have the Gold label as a target. Among the criteria that could help them reach their goal is having a faster course, personal records set, a comprehensive number of elite runners, and equal prize money for the participants, irrespective of gender or nationality. The race course must also be closed to vehicular traffic with full electronic timing used to generate the results, along with a specified number of doping tests that need to be carried out. And BMA has managed throughout the years to improve these standards and get closer to the golden goal.

Message to the world

Despite the tense political situation and the turmoil the country is going through, an expected 48,000 people filled the streets of the Lebanese capital, including 4500 foreigners from 110 countries, and took part in ten different races including the 21 Km half marathon, para-athletes’ races, the 8 Km Fun Run that saw the participation of over 35,000 and 188 NGOs who raised awareness for social causes, in addition to other races and categories.

This year, Lebanese people ran also for “the return of their missing Prime Minister Saad Hariri” who a week ago announced his shock resignation on live television from Saudi Arabia. Since then, the rest of the government and the nation have been waiting for his return to Lebanon, without knowing of his whereabouts.

As the marathon reached an end in the Lebanese capital, news broke that Hariri would be appearing in an interview that very evening on the Lebanese channel he owns, from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, in what will be his first appearance after announcing his resignation.

Who said running can’t solve mysteries?

Follow Rayane Moussallem on Twitter @RioMoussallem

Beirut Marathon participants at starting line with supporters of Lebanon's resigned prime minister Saad Hariri hold up placards demanding his return from Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Beirut Marathon Association)

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