The world record-holder for 5,000 and 10,000 meters ran alone for the final seven miles.
Three-time Olympic track champion Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia won the Paris Marathon Sunday in his debut at the distance, just a week before two-time Olympic track champion Mo Farah is set to make his much-anticipated marathon debut in London. Bekele covered the course in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 3 seconds, to break the course record set by Kenya’s Stanley Biwott in 2012.
It was the sixth-fastest marathon debut of all time and the quickest ever by an athlete over 30 years of age. Limenih Getachew of Ethiopia finished second, 2:06:49.
Bekele, 31, has won 20 global titles in track and cross country and owns the world records for 5,000 meters (12:37.35) and 10,000 meters (26:17.53). He was the first man to do the “double double,” the quadruple of world and Olympic 5,000 meters and 10,000m titles that Farah achieved in his absence at the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2013 world championships in Moscow.
Bekele won the gold medal in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and followed with gold in each event at the 2009 world championships in Berlin. He also won Olympic gold in the 10,000 at the 2004 Athens Olympics and silver in the 5,000. Although he won 20 championships in track and cross country from 2002-2009, he has struggled with injuries over the past few years and hasn’t won a major title since the 2009 world championships in Berlin.
“It’s my first marathon, I don’t have experience before,” Bekele told a French television station. “It was very tough. Anyway, I made the time I expected.”
The leading group reached the halfway stage in 1:02:09. Bekele accelerated near the 17-mile mark to break up a small group. Only compatriot Tamirat Tola was able to keep pace with him before dropping 2 miles later.
Bekele had a small scare about 5 miles from the finish as he felt a strain in his left thigh.
“My hamstring muscle was not good,” Bekele said. “It was cramping. I was worried.”
Flomena Cheyech of Kenya dominated the women’s race in 2:22:44, more than three minutes ahead of Yebrgual Melese of Ethiopia.