Tola Lema cruised to a comfortable victory in the Edinburgh Marathon as the visiting African contingent dominated the 11th edition of the capital race. With almost 15000 shrugging off the sunshine to complete the 26-mile loop from the city centre to Musselburgh, the Ethiopian led the field home in two hours, 15 minutes and 32 seconds.
It was just outside Zachary Kihara’s course record and, with a little more company, the Kenyan’s mark would surely have fallen. Lema produced a controlled run, biding his time behind Frenchman Nouridene Jalal for the opening 14 miles after the pair pulled away from the field in the early stages. When he made his move, it was decisive. Jalal had reached the halfway point in 66 minutes and 30 seconds, but Lema surged from 25 metres behind and accelerated past.
By the time the course had reached its eastern extremity in the heart of East Lothian, he was out of sight and the first-time winner ended up almost two minutes in front of Kenya’s John Kales, with Jalal a minute further back in third.
Kales, in his marathon debut, has carved a niche as a pacemaker at major events but he proved to himself that he can last the distance. “Before here, I’d never run more than 20 miles, but I still tried to use my experience,” he said. “I saw Jalal was not in the lead any more. And, in a marathon, even 500 metres is nothing, so I pushed up my pace towards the finish and I got away.”
Great Britain international Andi Jones found a late surge to come fourth in 2:19:29, ahead of Kenya’s Japhet Koech. “At 23 miles, I felt great and told myself to pick it up,” he confirmed. “I overtook the Kenyan lad and kept on running.”
Another Kenyan, Risper Kimaiyo, became the first African to win the women’s race with her time of 2:35:58 good enough to come 11th overall, well ahead of her closest female challengers Jane Khan and Julie Briscoe.
In her first outing at the distance, she looked confident. But she revealed: “I was nervous before the start. But it felt easier than I thought. I got into the middle of the race and I was hoping someone would be with me but I had to run on my own for a long time.”
Will Wright, in 13th place, and Glasgow-based paediatrician Avril Mason were the first Scottish male and female finishers.
Falkirk’s Ryan Beattie won the half-marathon in 1:09:33, with Borderer Dianne Lauder victorious in the women’s race in 1:24:55.
Elsewhere, Susan Partridge was ninth and fellow Scot Elspeth Curran 13th in the BT Manchester 10k as Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba won in 30:49, while Steph Twell was fourth in the Bupa Westminster Mile.