With Seifu Tura winning today’s 43rd Chicago Marathon over American Galen Rupp, we have now had first-time major champions at all three Abbott World Marathon Majors this fall. And all three have hailed from Ethiopia.
Tura in Chicago joined fellow Ethiopians Guy Adola, the Berlin Marathon champion, and Sisay Lemma, the London champion, as first time Major champions. Using that formula to look ahead to the 125th Boston Marathon tomorrow, one of six Ethiopian men may be our champion. That is, men who have yet to win a major taking that big step forward in their career.
BTW, this formulation eliminates two-time Boston champion Lelisa Desisa (2013 & 2015) and 2016 champion Lemi Berhanu, both of Ethiopia, not to mention 2017 champion Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya. Not that they are really eliminated, just for these academic purposes.
We begin with #2, Asefa Mengstu, age 33, whose personal best, 2:04:06, was from a fourth place finish in Dubai 2018. But he came in third in Chicago in 2019 just three seconds off the win He is an impressive fellow physically, tall, charismatic, a natural leader by all the comments I’ve heard. He also was born in Asela, Ethiopia, which has been the main seed bed of top Ethiopian talent for many years.
Our next potential first-timer will wear bib #7, Dejene Debela, 26y, whose personal best of 2:05:46 came in finishing in second place in Chicago 2019, just two seconds in front of Asefa Mengstu, and one second behind winner Lawrence Cherono of Kenya, who also out kicked an Ethiopian in Boston in April 2019, one Lelisa Desisa.
Next up #8, Kelkike Kezahegn, 25y. His personal best 2:05:56 came while taking third in Rotterdam 2018. This guy has already had 14 marathon starts and nine wins at age 25! In 2020, you may recall he won Houston in 2:08:36. I’ve been told he’s very eager to show his stuff in his first major start.
We move to #12, Tsedat Ayana, 25y, PR 2:06:18, third in Dubai 2020. He’s won twice in 10 starts, but like Kezahegn, is in his major debut. What may work against him is he’s DNFd in two of his last three starts, Valencia 2020, and Fukuoka 2019 . But he sandwiched his PB in Dubai between.
Bib #18 belongs to 21 year-old Bayelign Teshegar (By-yellin Tesh-eh-gar). He won the LA marathon last March 8, 2020, the week before the COVID-19 lockdown began in earnest. He ran a savvy race in LA, and beat a couple of good veterans including Wilson Chebet from Kenya who is a former runner up in Boston and will be running tomorrow as well.
One of the true marathon debs in tomorrow’s marathon is #21 Jemal Yimer, 25, who took a DNF in his only marathon start, Valencia 2020 after he fell at the 5K aid station, then used all his energy catching back up and eventually dropped out at 35K.
But he’s the Ethiopian national record holder at the Half Marathon, 58:33, and finished fifth at the 2017 London World Championships in the 10,000m in 26:56. Man has the best wheels in the field, plus a hairline that resembles Miruts “The Shifter” Yifter, double Olympic gold medalist from Moscow 1980. How do you bet against that?!
Just so you know, the other true debutante is Leonard Barsoton from Kenya. He’s 26 years old and was second at the 2017 World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda. He also took sixth in the World Half Mmarathon Championships in Poland in 2020. He’s got a best of 59:09 in the 1/2 marathon and 27:20 for 10,000 m. But he’s Kenyan, so he’s not part of the story. Watch for him, anyway.
So that’s the report on Ethiopian men looking to continue a national trend at the 2021 Abbott World Marathon Majors. The technical meeting starts at 4 PM. Have fun. Stay well. More later