Ethiopia’s Amdework Walelegn stormed to a Turkish all-comers record on Sunday (8) at the Vodafone Istanbul Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race, clocking a personal best of 59:50 in his second appearance over the distance.
Walelegn, who turned 19 last month, arrived in Istanbul with a modest 1:02:00 lifetime best, a time he ran in his half marathon debut in Riyadh in February. However, he had proved that more was coming when he finished in a world-leading time of 27:36 at the Laredo 10km three weeks ago.
The Ethiopian talent was in the leading pack going hard from the gun. The fast opening 2:43 kilometre led to a 14:10 split at five kilometres with an 11-man pack at the front. Along with Walelegn, Asefa Tefera of Ethiopia, Kenyans Leonard Langat and Evans Cheruiyot, and the Turkish duo Kaan Kigen Özbilen and Polat Kemboi Arıkan were still in contention when the group passed the 10-kilometre mark in 28:09.
Arikan was the first to start losing ground after the 12th kilometre, but the rest held together at 15-k, reached in 42:15 and still well in line with the targeted pace of sub-60.
Strong head winds after the turn-point at 16 kilometres slowed the pace a bit but Walelegn coped best with the conditions and pulled away from the others to hit 20 kilometres in 56:42, 50 metres ahead of Tefera and 70 metres ahead of Özbilen. The gap increased over the final kilometre with the young Ethiopian crossing the finish line in 59:50, the first sub-60 on Turkish soil. Tefera was second in 1:00:07 with Özbilen, who finished ninth at the IAAF/Trinidad Alfonso World Half Marathon Championships Valencia 2018 two weeks ago, followed in a national record of 1:00:08.
Ababel Yeshaneh achieved the second victory of the day for Ethiopia, taking the women’s title after slicing nearly a minute from her career best. Yeshaneh, her compatriot Roza Dereje Bekele, the winner of Dubai Standard Chartered Marathon in 2:19:17 in January, and Kenya’s Diana Kipyokei were in a distant lead at 10 kilometres where they passed in 31:11.
Yeshaneh made her move and created a gap over the two after the 15th kilometre and reached the finish alone in 1:06:22. Dereje arrived second in 1:07:00, with Kipyokei third in 1:07:55, PBs for both.
Can Korkmazoglu (organisers) for the IAAF
1. Amdework Walelegn, ETH, 59:50
2. Asefa Tefera, ETH, 1:00:07
3. Kaan Kigen Özbilen, TUR, 1:00:08
4. Leonard Langat, KEN, 1:00:16
5. Evans Cheruiyot, KEN, 1:00:26
6. Polat Kemboi Arıkan, TUR, 1:01:20
1. Ababel Yeshane, ETH, 1:06:22
2. Roza Dereje Bekele, ETH, 1:07:00
3. Diana Kipyokei, KEN, 1:07:55
4. Joyce Chepkirui, KEN, 1:09:18
5. Etegagen Woldu, ETH, 1:09:22
6. Zerfie Limeneh, ETH, 1:09:34