Tamirat Tola wins World Athletics Championships Oregon22 title
Tamirat Tola wins the 2022 World Athletics Championships Marathon in an event record 2:05:36 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, with permission to use

EUGENE (17-Jul) — On a cloudy and cool morning here today, Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola put on a marathon master class, running away from the field in the last quarter of the race to win his first world title in a World Championships record of 2:05:36. 

Tola, 30, who ran the second half in a sizzling 1:01:27, moved up from the silver medal position at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London.  He became just the third Ethiopian man to win the world marathon title after Lelisa Desisa in 2019 and Gezahegne Abera in 2001.  He won USD 70,000 in prize money.

“The feel is good; I’m happy,” the tall and lanky Tola told Race Results Weekly wrapped with an Ethiopian flag.  He continued: “I’m very, very happy for all our country and the others who are happy for me.”

Tola was part of a big group of 33 men at the halfway point which was reached in 1:04:08.  The closely-bunched group was holding a steady pace at around three minutes per kilometer, and although there were various leaders and a few little surges nobody wanted to risk a full breakaway given the strength of the field.

Things started to pick up in the 31st kilometer, which was run in 2:53.  Bahrain’s Shumi Dechasa, who had done much of the leading in the first half, was on the front with Kenya’s Barnabas Kiptum and Geoffrey Kamworor, Zimbabwe’s Isaac Mpofu, and American Galen Rupp.  There were still 23 men within one second of the leader.

But in the 33rd kilometer, Tola dropped the hammer.  He cut the pace down to 2:51, then really stepped on the gas in the 34th kilometer and covered that segment in just 2:42 giving him a seven-second lead.  The chase pack was quickly shredded, and only six athletes remained in contention for the silver and bronze medals: Kamworor, Bashir Abdi of Belgium, Gabriel Geay of Tanzania, Mosinet Geremew of Ethiopia, and Cam Levins of Canada.  Rupp fell back to 18th place and would finish 19th in 2:09:36.

“You know, I had to fight through,” Rupp said, pointing out that his preparations were less than perfect.  “This was obviously a tough one.  I’m proud of myself to get across the finish line.  It was pretty rough the last two miles out there for me.”

Tola kept up the pressure (his 37th kilometer was run in 2:46), and he ran alone to the finish line adjacent to the massive Autzen Stadium, home of the University of Oregon football team.  He said that today’s race gave him confidence to push forward and try for the 2024 Olympics.

“Before on London, 2017, silver medalist, now I am a gold medalist,” Tola said in English.  “I fulfill my goal. So maybe I think continue for Olympic, I think.”

While Tola had the win in the bag, the battle for the silver and bronze medals was anything but over.  Abdi and Geremew were together about 26 seconds behind Tola at 37-K, and Kamworor and Levins were another three seconds back. In the 38th kilometer, Kamworor and Levins caught Abdi and Geremew, and Kamworor was leading the charge for silver.

But soon Geremew and Abdi slipped away from Kamworor and Levins.  Abdi, last summer’s Olympic bronze medalist, just couldn’t quite keep up with Geremew in the final kilometer and had to settle for bronze in 2:06:48.  Geremew got silver in 2:06:44, the same medal he earned in Doha three years before.

“You know, it was tough last two kilometers,” Abdi told Race Results Weekly.  “I cramped a little, I slightly cramped in my hamstring.  To go faster then was not possible.”

Levins was able to pull ahead of Kamworor, a five-time world champion in cross country and road running, and smash his own Canadian national record in 2:07:09.  His race was an incredible rebound from his 72nd place finish in the Tokyo Olympics 11 months ago.

“I wanted that medal so bad,” Levins told reporters.  “I mean I really took a lot away from the last Olympics.  You know, I was one of the last finishers there.  I just realized I needed to be better in every way across the board.  So I just worked and completely changed myself as an athlete, last year to this year.  Training harder and better in every conceivable way.”

A moment later he said to reporters, “I feel like I’m about to throw up.” He turned away and emptied the contents of his stomach on the pavement.

Down the finish order, Elkanah Kibet was the second American in 24th place (2:11:20), and Colin Mickow came home third for the home nation, 46th overall in 2:16:36, despite falling hard at a fluid station at 11-K and badly scraping his left arm.  He ran the rest of the race with blood running down his arm, fighting off a bad hamstring cramp that developed after the fall.

“I felt fine right after the fall, but probably adrenaline going through me,” Mickow told reporters after being wheeled into the mixed zone in a wheelchair.  “Once that wore off, that’s where the cramps started happening.”

With the unusually cool conditions for a summer championships, 11 men ran sub-2:08.  A total of 54 athletes finished out of 62 starters.  Reigning world champion Desisa did not finish.

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