World Champs Men’s Marathon — Tola’s Brilliant Finish

Would you believe 1:59:09 pace for Tamirat Tola over the final 12.915km of the race? (KEVIN MORRIS)

AFTER 30 KILOMETERS of patient running, Tamirat Tola pulled abreast of the leaders and nudged the pace under a 3:00/kilometer clip. Three kilometers later, the 30-year-old Ethiopian just stomped on the pace, bolting away from a pack of two dozen and raced on to the most amazing victory in a championship marathon since Sammy Wanjiru blitzed the Beijing course in ’08.

Tola scorched his second half in 61:27 to stop the clock in 2:05:36, 68 seconds ahead of fellow Ethiopian Mosinet Geremew’s 2:06:44, replicating his finish in the Doha WC. Bashir Abdi backed up last year’s Olympic silver medal run, finishing 3rd in 2:06:48 to claim Belgium’s first WC marathon medal. All three bettered Abel Kirui’s MR, set at Berlin ’09.

Cam Levins finished off a very impressive effort finishing 4th in 2:07:09, bettering his Canadian Record by more than 2:00. Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworor finished 5th in 2:07:14, three ticks ahead of Ethiopian Seifu Tura. Galen Rupp finished 19th in 2:09:36 to lead the American squad with Elkanah Kibet 24th (2:11:20) and Colin Mickow 46th (2:16:36).

Fast times prevailed with almost ideal cool morning weather and a rather flat 14K loop course run on trails and roads stretching between Eugene and Springfield just north of the Willamette River.

The really fast running was saved for the third and final loop with the first having been covered in 42:57 (2:09:27 pace). Halfway was passed in 64:08, and the second loop completed in 1:25:11 (2:08:22 pace).

Almost every contender was in the tightly bunched 32-man lead pack, save the struggling defending champ Lelisa Desisa, Japan’s Kengo Suzuki sidelined by COVID, and co-favorite Kenyan Lawrence Cherono who was conditionally suspended by the AIU for an adverse PED test.

After passing 30K in 1:31:09 (2:08:12 pace), Tola moved to the front alongside of Burundi’s Shumi Dechasa and they tapped out a 2:52 kilo that caught the attention of the field’s elite who latched onto the surge.

Subsequent 2:57 and 2:52 segments trimmed the lead pack to 14 as Kamworor and Abdi joined Tola and Dechasa at the front. Tola admitted he benefited from the experience of his silver medal run in the ’17 WC: “I learned from my mistake when I sped to the front, and it cost me the gold. I made sure it did not happen again.” Indeed, Tola threw down a 14:27 between 20 and 25K in London before fading over the final kilometers.

This time, Tola passed 33K full of run and confidence, explaining, “We four Ethiopians on the team trained together for a month and discussed the strategy on how to win this marathon race, and I decided to up the pace with 10km to go.”

Seldom, if not ever has a marathon runner “upped the pace” as high as Tola who broke away with a 2:43 that opened a 7-second lead. His margin grew to 12 seconds after a 2:47, and Tola’s 36th kilo in 2:51 earned a 17-second lead over the 4-man chase pack of Abdi, Geremew, Kamworor and Levins.

Abdi headed up the group but admitted, “When Tola left, I hesitated and by the time I decided to catch him, there was already a big gap. I missed the confidence today, and I think it was a big mistake on my end.”

Up front, Tola covered ground effortlessly and quickly. Rolling through a pair of 2:46 and 2:48 kilos, Tola crossed over the 38K mat in 1:53:46 (2:06:20 pace), netting a scant 13:55 split since initiating his attack. He never let up, passing 40K in 1:59:30 to reveal a 28:20 split from 30-40K.

Tola lifted the pace even higher, crushing the final 2195m in 6:06 — 2:46 pace to finish off a closing rush full of mind-boggling splits. Perhaps most impressive was a 34:26 from 30K to the finish — 28 seconds faster than Eliud Kipchoge in his WR dash — and an average of 2:49.4 kilos, or 1:59:09 marathon pace over the final 12.195 kilometers.

“I want to thank God and my coach Gemedu Dedefo for this gold medal,” Tola exclaimed. “It was a dream come true.”


(July 17; three 14K loops plus 2.195 finish)

(temperature 55–61F/13–16C; humidity 88–79%)

1. Tamirat Tola (Eth) 2:05:36 MR

(15:44, 15:09 [30:53], 15:01 [45:54], 15:00 [60:54], 15:18 [1:16:12], 15:00 [1:28:10], 14:24 [1:42:34], 14:03 [1:56:37]) (64:09/61:27);

2. Mosinet Geremew (Eth) 2:06:44


3. Bashir Abdi (Bel) 2:06:48


4. Cam Levins (Can) 2:07:09 NR


5. Geoffrey Kamworor (Ken) 2:07:14


6. Seifu Tura (Eth) 2:07:17


7. Gabriel Gerald Geay (Tan) 2:07:31


8. Daniel do Nascimento (Bra) 2:07:35


9. Shumi Dechasa (Bhr) 2:07:52; 10. Isaac Mpofu (Zim) 2:07:56 NR; 11. Maru Teferi (Isr) 2:07:59; 12. Othmane El Goumri (Mor) 2:08:14; 13. Yusuke Nishiyama (Jpn) 2:08:35; 14. Hamza Sahili (Mor) 2:08:45; 15. Barnabas Kiptum (Ken) 2:08:59; 16. Oqbe Kibrom (Eri) 2:09:02; 17. Hassan Chahdi (Fra) 2:09:20; 18. Melikhaya Frans (SA) 2:09:24 PR; 19. Galen Rupp (US) 2:09:36 (64:08/65:28); 20. Rory Linkletter (Can) 2:10:24 PR; 21. Mohamed Reda El Aaraby (Mor) 2:10:33; 22. Goitom Kifle (Eri) 2:11:10; 23. Guojian Dong (Chn) 2:11:14; 24. Elkanah Kibet (US) 2:11:20 (64:08/67:12); 25. Tasama Moogas (Isr) 2:11:36; 26. Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mgl) 2:11:39; 27. José Márcio da Silva (Bra) 2:11:43; 28. Ben Preisner (Can) 2:11:47; 29. Patricio Castillo (Mex) 2:11:51; 30. Thomas De Bock (Bel) 2:11:54;

31. Shaohui Yang (Chn) 2:11:56; 32. Olivier Irabaruta (Bur) 2:12:00; 33. Jackson Kiprop (Uga) 2:12:14; 34. Felix Chemonges (Uga) 2:12:16; 35. Tebello Ramakongoana (Les) 2:12:35; 36. Héctor Garibay (Bol) 2:12:44; 37. Paulo Roberto Paula (Bra) 2:13:39; 38. Gaku Hoshi (Jpn) 2:13:44; 39. Nicolás Cuestas (Uru) 2:13:52; 40. Fred Musobo (Uga) 2:13:58; 41. Eulalio Munoz (Arg) 2:14:29; 42. Byambajav Tseveenravdan (Mgl) 2:14:44; 43. Tom Gröschel (Ger) 2:14:56; 44. Hizkel Tewelde (Eri) 2:15:01; 45. Jianhua Peng (Chn) 2:16:12; 46. Colin Mickow (US) 2:16:36 (64:16/72:20); 47. Thijs Nijhuis (Den) 2:16:55; 48. Haimro Alame (Isr) 2:17:05; 49. Josh Griffiths (GB) 2:17:37; 50. Ernesto Zamora (Uru) 2:17:54; 51. Dario Castro (Mex) 2:18:32; 52. Tumelo Motlagale (SA) 2:20:21; 53. Eddie Garcia (VI) 2:23:16; 54. Krishna Bahadur Basnet (Nep) 2:24:19;

… dnf—Lahsene Bouchikhi (Bel), Ibrahim Hassan Bouh (Dji), Gantulga Dambadarjaa (Mgl), Lelisa Desisa (Eth), Emmanuel Giniki (Tan), Abdi Nageeye (Neth), David Nilsson (Swe), Joo-han Oh (SK), Kengo Suzuki (Jpn).

(leader 5Ks: Dechasa 15:43, 30:53, 45:53, 1:00:53, 1:13:09, 1:28:10; Tola 1:42:34, 1:56:37)