On Saturday, four Ethiopian runners from the Bronx piled into a friend’s rented Pontiac G6 and drove north to NH for the Manchester City Marathon/Half Marathon.
Yesterday, all four went home with a victory.
In the men’s marathon, 25-year-old Fikadu Lema outlegged Dover’s Scott Rowe by nearly five minutes, winning in a course-record 2 hours, 23 minutes and 46 seconds. And in the women’s marathon, 25-year-old Dirbe Hubde beat Marie Strouse of Orono, ME, by more than 11 minutes, finishing in 2:55:17.
Bado Worku Merdessa, 21, won the men’s half marathon by 11 seconds over Joseph Koech of Chelmsford, MA, while 24-year-old Aziza Aliyu took the women’s half marathon, edging Jeannette Seckinger of Somerville, MA, by three seconds.
Each marathon winner earned $1,500, while the half marathon winners took home $1,000.
Lema, who finished seventh in the Baltimore Marathon three weeks ago, began distancing himself from his competitors at the 16-mile mark.
“It was the tightest marathon race I’ve ever run,” said Rowe, the 35-year-old winner of the inaugural Manchester City Marathon in 2007. “(Lema) was running smart. He was tucking behind us and putting in some surges… I tried to put some surges on the hills, because that was my strong point. He was just in better shape than me.” Rowe finished in 2:28:09, narrowly missing his personal marathon record of 2:27:51, which he set in winning the 2007 race. Titus Mutinda, a 44-year-old from Lowell, MA, was third at 2:33:55.
Women’s marathon champion Hunde broke from the pack early. Winner of the 2005 Dubai Marathon, she led comfortably by the five-mile mark and became the first woman to post a sub-three-hour time in Manchester.
“I never even saw her,” said Christin Doneski of Hopkinton, last year’s marathon winner, who finished third yesterday (3:07:10). Runner-up Strouse, a 24-year-old graduate student at the University of Maine running in only her second marathon, finished at 3:06:30.
The women’s half marathon was the day’s tightest battle. Aziza, who runs for the Westchester Track Club, sprinted to the finish to defeat Seckinger, a 27-year-old Boston Athletic Association runner who won the Hartford Marathon three weeks ago.
Aziza passed Seckinger at the 13-mile mark after lurking behind her for most of the race.
“She just sat on my shoulder the whole way,” Seckinger said. “I tried to fight it, but I just didn’t have the same speed as her.” Aziza finished in 1:17:44 to Seckinger’s 1:17:47. Sheri Piers, a 38-year-old runner from Falmouth, ME, finished third at 1:19:26.
Men’s half marathon winner Merdessa, who runs for New York’s West Side Runners, spent much of the race matching strides with Koech, a 40-year-old Kenyan, before pulling away in the last mile. Merdessa finished at 1:09:45, while Koech ran 1:09:56.
The Official Manchester City Marathon/Half-Marathon Web site could be found here.