Marshalling error makes Macau marathon longer

Heavy rain and 5am start blamed as competitors run 3km extra in race won by Ethiopian Gemeda

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 3:01am

A marshalling error at the start of yesterday's Macau Galaxy Entertainment International Marathon resulted in the leading athletes running an estimated three kilometres beyond the 42.2km distance.

Despite this initial upset, a pack of about 10, mostly African, runners forged ahead of the record 6,000-strong field to battle it out for the US$20,000 first prize.

Heavy rain fell when the race began in the Macau Olympic Stadium at 5am, which probably compounded the marshalling problem, especially as it was dark at the time.

The heavy rain continued to fall, but the leading group remained locked together for much of the two-lap race. The eventual winner, Ethiopia's Haile Gemeda, left his break for the finish line until the final run into the stadium, where he crossed the line in two hours, 23 minutes and 56 seconds.

Kenyan pre-race favourite, Duncan Koech, followed Gemeda over the line just four seconds later to take second place, while Gezaheng Abebe came in close behind and clocked 2.24:11 for third.

"I don't know what happened at the start, as we just followed someone else out of the stadium," Gemeda said. "We were well into things before we realised we were on the wrong route. The cold wind and pouring rain certainly didn't help matters."

Hong Kong's Darren Benson, a former winner of the China Coast Marathon, finished in 2.51:16 to be the leading Hong Kong runner in the men's field and a creditable 23rd overall.

"We turned left instead of right coming out of the stadium," the Australian said. "Judging by the times, we could have done an extra 4km today."

Defending champion Tsega Gelaw Reta failed in her attempt to win consecutive Macau titles after fellow Ethiopian, Ehitu Reda, pulled away in the final stages of the women's race to claim the title in 2.50:10.

"I'm very happy with the victory today as the conditions were really tough for distance running," Reda, 24, said. She ran a personal best marathon time of 2.33:43 in Slovakia earlier this year. "I ran this race once before so I think my knowledge of the course also helped me," Reda said.

Reta clocked 2.51:04 for second place, while Kenya's Irene Kemunto prevented an Ethiopian clean sweep of the medals by taking third in 2.51:21.

"We're still trying to work out what went wrong at the start," an official said after the race. "This is the 31st time we've staged this event and it's the first time it has ever rained. Possibly this had something to do with the problem."

Chow Chi-ngan was the first female Hong Kong runner to cross the line.

Chow, who set a personal best time for the half marathon in last week's Unicef Charity Run at Hong Kong Disneyland on Lantau, posted a time of 3.00:14 to finish sixth overall in the women's race.