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BALTIMORE, Md. – (October 13, 2012) – For more than 2½ hours, Elfneshe Melaku Yado and Malika Mejdoub ran virtually side-by-side through the streets of Baltimore on Saturday morning. Through classic landmarks like Druid Hill Park, Patterson Park, Clifton Park and Lake Montebello. And through Charm City’s notable neighborhoods like Federal Hill, Little Italy and of course the touristy Inner Harbor.
Yet when the two professional marathoners reached the finish between two other notable landmarks, Oriole Park and M&T Stadium, they were inseparable.
With hundreds of fans cheering them on, Yado the Ethiopian and Mejdoub the Moroccan jockeyed back and forth for the lead and hit the finish tape at nearly the same instant. In the end, Yado was declared the winner of the Under Armour Baltimore Marathonby a hair, with both runners timed at 2 hours, 38 minutes, 46 seconds which was the 10th fastest women’s time in race history.
Yado also became the first female winner from Ethiopia in the 12-year history of the race, all this during her very first trip to America.
The stunning conclusion to the women’s race overshadowed nearly an equally exciting men’s finish.
Stephen Muange of Kenya successfully defended his 2011 title, just three seconds ahead of runner-up Tesfaye Alemayehu of Ethiopia in a personal best 2:13:08. It was the sixth year in a row that a Kenyan runner took the men’s title and 10th time in 12 years. Last year, the 31-year-old Muange pulled off a four-second victory over Ethiopian Ambesse Tolosa.
Both Muange and Yado earned $25,000 for their efforts, matching Muange’s $25,000 from last year and recording the biggest payday in the 25-year-old Yado’s burgeoning five-year career.
Some 26,600 runners registered for the Baltimore Running Festival, which included 5,000 marathoners, 11,000 half-marathoners, 4,200 5K runners and 1,200 four-person marathon teams. Pro and pack runners alike were treated to perfect conditions, with a 45-degree start, moderate temperatures during the race, clear-blue skies and little wind.
“This year it was very competitive, more than last year,” said Muange, who trains at high altitudes in Santa Fe, NM. “Today we were many many elite athletes. The first half was very slow, then after 13.1 miles we picked it up a lot.”
The early going was dreadfully slow, with two dozen elite men passing the first uphill mile in 5:41, just 15 meters ahead of the lead pack of elite women. Passing two miles in 11:30 and three near Druid Hill in 17:01, it was evident that the leaders were content to relax the pace. The pack fluctuated from 20-22 members as they headed back downtown to Inner Harbor at eight miles and still nobody was in any rush with the pace.
After an out-and-back which took the field past title sponsor Under Armour’s headquarters at 11 miles, the leaders passed Inner Harbor again at the halfway mark, hitting the split at 1:07:51 which averages nearly 5:11 per mile. Still, 13 runners remained in the mix.
Suddenly, 31-year-old Muange began throwing in surges. By 16 ½ miles, only Ernest Kebenei, the eventual third place finisher, could match him. Over the next mile, Alemayehu would reel them in, and in Clifton Park, Julius Koskei made it a quartet as they climbed a short hill on Harford Road en route to Lake Montebello and the 20-mile mark.
Around the lake and back into the city streets, the pace quickened even more, dropping Kebenei after 23 miles and Koskei right about 24 miles into the race.
This left just Muange and Alemayehu, both veteran racers, to decide who would be first and win $25,000 and who would be second and pocket $15,000. In fact, they’ve raced each other over 10 miles, half and full marathons. Last year, Alemayehu outran Muange at the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth, MN, by 42 seconds.
They were side-by-side down Eutaw Street through 25, then 26 miles and just two-tenths to go, Muange had a half-step lead into the alley behind the outfield of Orioles Park.
With 75 meters to go, Muange found the last surge of speed and broke the finishing tape, with Alemayehu just a blink behind him. Both improved upon their last year’s times of 2:15:16 for Muange and 2:16:16 for Alemayehu, who was sixth.
“Times were faster than last year,” said Alemayehu, winner of last year’s Army Ten Miler in Washington who sports a 2:11:18 personal best from the 2012 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon and hails from Antioch, CA. “The last mile I tried to separate. I pushed and pushed. He was just stronger.” They completed the second half of the race averaging 4:59 per-mile pace.
Then came Kebenei in 2:13:50 ($8500) and Koskei in 2:14:13 ($5500), while KenyanFred Kosgei, a late entrant with bib #3296, rounded out the top five in 2:15:37 ($3500).
Eric Grossman, 44, from Emory, Va. was the top Masters runner in 2:33:39, while top female Master was 42-year-old Shawna Jones from Raleigh, N.C., 10th among females in 3:07:43; each earned $1000.
The women’s field was as diversified as the men’s but not as deep. Elites came from Kenya, Ethiopia, Russia, Belarus and Morocco.
“I knew I had to win,” Yado, a resident of Addis Ababa, said through an interpreter. “I knew I had to increase my speed. I am ecstatic with the win today.” It was her second marathon triumph after capturing the challenging Athens (Greece) Classic Marathon in November 2011 in a personal best 2:35:25.
Like the men’s race, the women proceeded relatively slowly through the first half of the race, with seven women in contention at the 13.1-mile mark.
“Actually, it was slow,” said Mejdoub, who trains in Albuquerque, N.M., and ran a personal best in her fourth marathon. “The girls were watching each other. I was planning on running faster. But it didn’t happen.” Mejdoub already has wins this year at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and Mississippi Marathon.
Mejdoub said it was her who made the move at 19 miles which strung out the field.
Down the last stretch, the two traded the lead, back and forth and back again, all the way across the finish line. Liudmila Biktasheva of Russia was third in 2:39:14 ($8500),Volha Mazuronak of Belarus was fourth in 2:40:06 ($5500) and Rose Jebet of Kenya was fifth in 2:40:23 ($3500).
Two-time race runner-up Lee DiPietro of Baltimore completed her seventh Baltimore Marathon, albeit a bit disappointed with her time this year. “I was on pace for the first half,” said DiPietro, hoping for a 3:05 finish at age 54. “I came through the first half in 1:31. Then my hamstrings tied up about 19 to 20 miles.”
She ended up in 3:12:42, 15th among women and fourth Master behind three 40-somethings.
Nate Brigham of Baltimore (1:11:39) and Katie Hursey of Hampstead, N.Y., (1:18:30) were winners of the accompanying CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield Half Marathon, while Tyler Saunders of Baltimore (15:44) and Stephanie Hoag of Hunt Valley, Md. (18:16) were winners of the CareFirst 5K.
Lee Corrigan, president of Corrigan Sports Enterprises, and the event organizer, was happy with the events of the morning. “We’ve been fortunate, 12 years of great running weather,” he said. “There were two great finishes in the men’s and women’s race and we did pretty good at the execution of the race. We just keep getting better.”
12th Under Armour Baltimore Marathon
Baltimore, MD, Saturday, October 13, 2012
1) Stephen Muange (KEN), 2:13:08, $25,000
2) Tesfaye Alemayheu (ETH), 2:13:11, $15,000
3) Ernest Kebenei (KEN), 2:13:50, $8500
4) Julius Koskei (KEN), 2:14:13, $5500
5) Fred Kosgei (KEN), 2:15:37, $3500
6) Meshack Kirwa (KEN), 2:16:30, $2500
7) Kennedy Kemei (KEN), 2:16:37, $2000
8) Joseph Mutinda (KEN), 2:17:47, $1700
9) Ketema Amensisa (ETH), 2:17:57
10) Isaac Waweru (KEN), 2:19:53
MASTERS MEN (40+)
1) Eric Grossman, 44, VA, 2:33:39, $1000
2) John Piggott, 47, VA, 2:45:23, $750
3) Jason Tripp, 40, MD, 2:48:27, $500
1) Elfheshe Yado (ETH), 2:38:46, $25,000
2) Malika Mejdoub (MAR), 2:38:46, $15,000
3) Liudmila Biktasheva (RUS), 2:39:14, $8500
4) Volha Mazuronak (BLR), 2:40:06, $5500
5) Rose Jebet (KEN), 2:40:23, $3500
6) Tezeta Dengersa (ETH), 2:40:35, $2500
7) Leah Kiprono (KEN), 2:44:31, $2000
8) Hirut Mandefro (ETH), 3:02:46, $1700
9) Karen Lenhoff (USA / DE), 3:05:29
10) Shawna Jones, 42, USA / NC, 3:07:47, $1000
MASTERS WOMEN (40+)
1) Jones, see above
2) Sherri Doebler, 41, PA, 3:11:50, $750
3) Christine Rockey, 42, SC, 3:12:15, $500
Complete results at: www.thebaltimoremarathon.com
(c) 2012 RunningUSA, all rights reserved, used with permission