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Welcome to the 2:01 club, Sisay Lemma. The 32-year-old and perpetual 2:03 to 2:06 finisher won his fourth big marathon in Valencia on Sunday in the time of 2:01:48. The Ethiopian puts his name alongside countryman Kenenisa Bekele, and Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Eliud Kipchoge. Lemma’s previous best was 2:03:36 from the 2019 running of the Berlin Marathon, where Bekele won in 2:01:41. Lemma won London in 2021 and 2015 Frankfurt and Vienna marathons.

Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa, the 2019 Boston champion, had a winning return to the marathon. Sunday, she ran her first marathon since January 2020 after giving birth twice since. Degefa finished in the time of 2:15:51 to move to seventh all-time. In the process, Degefa bettered 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana, who finished second in a new personal best (pb) of 2:16:22, which is eighth all-time. Degefa’s previous personal best was 2:17:41 from the 2019 Dubai Marathon.

The men’s race

It was a hot-to-trot start as the men busted off the line with approximately 61:00 to 61:15 as the goal for the halfway split. But no. Ten men made the fateful decision to run the first half in 60:35. The hot early pace was a high-risk and high-reward scenario and it cost some runners who may have done better going 61:15. This includes two names that were causing a pre-race stir with their presence: world 5000m and 10,000m record holder Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda and former world 5000m and 10,000m record holder Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia.

The chase pack clocked 62:53. The top chase runner was Ethiopian, Mohamed Esa, who smartly ran 2:05:40 to finish in eighth position with near even splits. He ran Amersterdam in 2022 to finish in 2:05:05. There, he ran under the name Mohamed Huseydin and clocked a 61:53 first half. Lesson learned.

Cheptegei finished 37th in the time of 2:08:59 — ouch. Apparently, his training schedule was shortened due to a foot injury, however, he went for the win anyway. At this time, it is too early to tell if he will run another marathon to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The standard is 2:08:10, he missed that. The global rankings also influence qualification — regardless, he will want to do better to bother toeing the line in Paris.

Finishing second was Alexader Mutiso in the time of 2:03:11 and Dawit Wolde clocking a finish time of 2:03:48.

Bekele finished fourth and first master in 2:04:19. Meanwhile Tanzanian Gabriel Geay and Kibiwott Kandie of Kenya acquitted themselves well in fifth and sixth-place finishes and in the times of 2:04:33 and 2:04:48, respectively. Kandie, like Cheptegei, had a rough go in his debut clocking 2:13:43 in New York two years ago. So, he should be happy with his nine-minute personal best off a hotly-paced start.

The first non-African finisher was Frenchman Nico Navarro with his new personal best of 2:05:53. The former professional cyclist turned to running after breaking three vertebrae in a cycling crash. He debuted at the 2018 Valencia Marathon clocking a 2:12:50 and qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Navarro ran his latest best of 2:06:45 in Seville earlier this year.

Richard Ringer of Germany ran a new pb of 2:07:05 to finish in 19th place. The 34-year-old has had a strong year having clocked three new personal bests. In the 5K event, he clocked 13:32 to set the German national road best in February in Monaco. That same month, he ran a half-marathon best of 1:01:09 in Barcelona.

Lemma and Degefa earned at least €75,000 ($81,565, £64,373) for their wins. See the prize purse breakdown below.

Top-20 results – men

1LEMMA, SISAY2:01:48
3WOLDE, DAWIT2:03:48
7DESO, CHALU2:05:14
9FRERE, MEHDI2:05:43
10AYALE, GASHAU2:05:46
13AMARE, GIRMAW2:05:52
14NAVARRO, NICO2:05:53
15ALAME, HAIMRO2:06:04
16BOUR, Felix2:06:46
18Davlatov, Shokhrukh2:07:02

Women’s race

Worknesh Degefa ran her last marathon in Dubai in January 2020. The super shoe era had just begun. While she was away, the previous benchmarks were destroyed due to the constant upgrading of the shoe business. At that time, Degefa’s 2:17:41 placed her fifth on the all-time list. Now that same performance is 25th and nearly six minutes off the current world record as set by Ethiopian Tigist Assefa at 2:11:53 from Berlin in September.

She is now the seventh-fastest athlete with the eighth-fastest performance all-time (two are tied with 2:15:37).

Behind Ayana’s second-place finish of 2:16:22 is Hiwot Gebrekidan of Ethiopia in 2:17:59.

Gebrekidan hit her stride in 2021 and has now run three races sub-2:20. Valencia is her pb, for now.

Ayana, famous for her quote, “….god is my only drug…” has started her marathon career tidily with a 2:17:20 performance in the 2022 Amsterdam marathon and her second-place pb performance in Valencia.

The top non-African was Genevieve Gregson of Australia who clocked a quick 2:23:08, eighth-place finish. The former steeplechaser still holds the area and Australian record for the 3000msc with her 2016 Paris Diamond League performance of 9:14.28. She is a seven-time national champion and two-time fifth-place Commonwealth Games finisher.

Fellow Australian, the ageless wonder, Lisa Weightman continues to clock impressive times finishing in 13th position to record a 2:24:18 performance. At age 44, she continues to run well and is possibly the greatest masters marathon runner of all time.

Top-20 women

2AYANA, ALMAZ2:16:22
8Gregson, Genevieve2:23:08
10Batt-Doyle, Isobel2:23:27
11STEYN, GERDA2:24:03
12CHELIMO, JOAN2:24:16
14Schlumpf, Fabienne2:24:30
15Hottenrott, Laura2:24:32
16Richardsson, Camilla2:24:38
17WOLDU, Mekdes2:24:44
18Ortiz Morocho, Silvia Patricia2:24:50
19Mélody, JULIEN2:25:01
20Evans, Clara2:25:04

Prize purse breakdown

Prize money: Up to 417,000 Euros depending on finish times.

First place male: 75,000 Euros if under 2:04:30. Prizes 12 deep. See prize page for details. First Spaniard 5,000 Euros; first member of Valencia Athletics Federation 2,000 Euros.

First place female: 75,000 Euros if under 2:20:00. Prizes 12 deep. See prize page for details. First Spaniard 5,000 Euros; first member of Valencia Athletics Federation 2,000 Euros

Bonuses: ER (M/F): 30,000 Euros; WR $250 Euros; Spanish record 25,000 Euros.

*Featured photo: screen capture from X (Twitter) post of image taken by @sportmedia_es.