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Posted: November 13, 2016:  

Athletics: Kiptoo and Girma win the Blom Bank Beirut Marathon

By Paul Gains

Two new champions were crowned at todayís Blom Bank Beirut Marathon as heat and humidity quashed any idea of fast times.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe fired the starterís pistol to send the competitors in the IAAF Silver Label Marathon off before he himself jumped in the 7k fun run along with the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Kenyaís Edwin Kibet Kiptoo took the menís marathon title in a time of 2:13:19 running away from a pack of nine in the second half of the race. Second place went to Abebe Gizachew of Ethiopia (2:14:06) with the final podium place going to the defending champion, Jackson Limo of Kenya. Limo crossed the finish line at Martyrís Square in 2:15:02.

A year ago albeit on a slightly different course he had run 2:11:04.

"Today was very hot and very humid,í said the 28 year old Kiptoo. "It was a good race I was comfortable in winning. My target was 2:09 but today you cannot run for time. The humidity, it was very hot. From 31 to 32km I looked back and there were no people behind. I was able to increase my lead to the finish."

All the elite athletes complained of the weather conditions.

ĎThe pace was a little slow today because of the heat," said Limo afterwards. "We tried to push but the time didn't come. I saw when we were halfway the pace is too slow. I knew we weren't going to run a good time.

"I was expecting to defend my title but unfortunately I didnít. But I am very happy with the results. We were around 32km and Kiptoo pushed I tried to go with him but I had a small stitch in my stomach. I tried to close the gap to get on the podium."

The womenís race went to 23 year old Tigist Girma of Ethiopia with a time of 2:32:48 a new personal best despite the heat. Remarkably it was the third marathon of the year for the visibly delighted Ethiopian who took the lead in the second half and simply followed the pacemaker until he was forced to drop out with cramps.

Girma was second in the Marrakech Marathon in January and 7th in Lanzhou (China). Asked if she was expecting to win the Beirut Marathon she simply grinned broadly.

"I am very, very happy that I won this marathon race. The Beirut marathon is good for me," she said. "The pacemaker ran well until his legs hurt and he dropped back.

"I trained very hard in preparation for this race. My coach is Haji Adilo and I train with his group with runners like Mare Dibaba, Amane Gobena and Tirunesh Dibaba. I am very, very happy."

The finish line crowd included a contingent of Ethiopians, who wore national colours and waved their countryís flag. They had even more reason to celebrate. Following Girma across the line were two of their compatriots, Seada Kedir (2011 and 2012 champion) (2:34:12) and Alemenesh Guta (2:37:23).

The heat saw several contenders drop out early including Olena Shukh

Much to the delight of the enthusiastic Lebanese crowd it was national record holder Chirine Njeim who came across the line next. Her time of 2:54:12 was well off her national record of 2:44:19 but respectable considering the conditions. Then came the woman who inspired her to take up marathon running in the first place, her sister Nesrine (3:12:08)

"It was good," said the younger sister who represented Lebanon at the Rio Olympics. "I came in today wanting to finish and wanting be here for everyone. That was my goal. My main goal. It was a difficult course, it was a little hilly and generally everyone was on the course cheering so that was really cool. As always, I enjoyed every minute of it."

Along the way Njeim passed dancers and community cheering sections who shouted out her name. The spirit of the race - 'peace, love and runí - was evident across the city.

"Itís amazing, In the back of my mind I am thinking how do they even know my name?" she said. "Itís really, really nice to see that. It definitely gives me a push to keep going. It is definitely nice to have that on the course. The sisters will take one and two on the podium in the Lebanese race."

For her part Nesrine was pleased to finish on the Lebanese podium.

"Actually I ran the Amsterdam marathon two weeks ago," she revealed. "So today I didn't come for the time. My goal was to be with my sister. I only wanted to be second spot."

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