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Ethiopians shine at Berlin marathon as Bekele falls short of target

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Ethiopia's Guye Adola and Gotytom Gebreslase won the men's and women's Berlin Marathons on Sunday but compatriot Kenenisa Bekele, a two-time former winner, had to settle for third in the men's race as he failed in his bid to break the world record.

Adola won the men's race in an official time of two hours, five minutes, 45 seconds -- well short of Eliud Kipchoge's world record 2:01:39 set in the German capital three years ago -- with second-placed Bethwel Yegon of Kenya 29 seconds behind.

Bekele, the 2016 and 2019 winner in Berlin, had been attempting to break his personal best when he came within two agonizing seconds of Kipchoge's record two years ago but ended up settling for third as he finished one minute, two seconds behind Adola.

"The race started off really fast, the leading pack couldn't maintain that pace, so I took my chance to hit the front," said Adola after his victory.

"I thought before the race I could beat Kenenisa (Bekele).

"It was so hot, my feet were burning in my shoes, " Adola added as the temperature topped 20 degrees Celsius on the course.

Nine months after suffering from Covid-19, Bekele, who turns 40 next June, was disappointed with his time but had no thoughts of retiring.

"The big problem for me was the lack of training because of the pandemic," said Bekele, one of the greatest distance runners of all time, having won the world and Olympic gold medals over both 5,000 meters and 10,000m.

"I wanted to do well in Berlin, but I just couldn't do as well as I hoped -- this does not mean my career is over."

Ethiopian runners swept the podium in the women's race as Gebreslase won on her debut over the marathon distance.

The 26-year-old won in two hours, 20 minutes, nine seconds and led a clean sweep for the Ethiopians on the podium as Hiwot Gebrekidan took second, one minute, 14 seconds behind, with third place going to Helen Tola at two minutes, 56 seconds back.

"Although it was my first marathon, I was running to win," said Gebreslase, the world youth champion over 3000m in 2011.

The race through the streets of Berlin was the first of the world's major six marathons to take place with elite athletes and a mass field of runners -- estimated at around 25,000 -- since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Adola, 30, celebrated the first major marathon win of his career having finished second to Kipchoge in Berlin four years ago on his debut over the distance.

It was an impressive display from Yegon, who briefly led in the later stages before fading, but he knocked more than two minutes off his previous best marathon time when he finished eighth in Berlin two years ago.

The lead pack, spearheaded by Bekele, set off at a lightning speed, 25 seconds under Kipchoge's world record pace after 15kms.

Bekele dropped back from the lead pack, but still stayed on course to run a new world record through the halfway stage.

The warm temperature and the brutal tempo took their toll as the pacesetters dropped off and the lead runners were 22 seconds behind the world record pace at the 25km stage, just over halfway.

With seven kilometers to go, Adola, 30, opened a three seconds gap ahead of Bekele who was also passed by Yegon.

The Kenyan briefly hit the front, but Adola attacked and retook the lead as they came within sight of the iconic Brandenburg Gate, just before the finish line.

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