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Athens Marathon

Zebedayo Bayo of Tanzania won

2003-11-02

Zebedayo Bayo of Tanzania won the 21st edition of the Athens Classic Marathon on next years Olympic course, in 2hr 16min 59sec. Second and third were the Kenyans Stephen Rugut in 2.17.06, and Elias Chebet in 2.18.22. The womens race was won by Nadja Wijenberg of the Netherlands. The former Russian, named Ilyina won in 2.43.18. Second, and winner of the Greek title was Georgia Ampatzidou, 2.46.47. Third was Margaret Karie of Kenya, in 2.48.48.

The last time that Stephen Rugut ran the Athens Classic Marathon two years ago, there was a flash flood at the start, and he dropped out shortly afterwards. The Kenyan lasted the whole course this time, leading most of the way on Sunday morning. But when Zebedayo Bayo of Tanzania poured on the pace in the last kilometre, Rugut had to give best. Bayo, one of the favourites for this 21st edition of the race on next years Olympic course, won in 2hr 16min 59sec, with Rugut second in 2.17.06, and another Kenyan Elias Chebet third in 2.18.22. The temperatures rose to 25 degrees centigrade at the finish, to add to the difficulty of the course, which rises and falls, but most rises from the ancient site at Marathon - which gives the race its name - to the marble Panathenaikon Stadium, built in Athens for the 1896 Olympics.

"Its a very tough course," said Bayo, "the toughest Ive ever run. But I was able to kick away at the end, I enjoyed that". Testament to the difficulty of the course - a warning to runners in next years Olympic race - is that Bayos time is just over eight minutes slower than his best of 2.08.51, set when finishing third in New York five years ago.

Christos Vardzakis memory goes back a little longer. Vardzakis, aged 93 won two Balkan and four Greek marathon titles back in the 1930s. He was due to run the accompanying 10k race yesterday, but after an injury had to be content watching his protegé, Nikos Polias win his seventh national marathon title, in 2.23.16. "But Ill be back to run the 10k next year," promised Vardzakis.

Nadja Wijenberg set out on a hard training run on Sunday morning, and ended up winning one of the most prestigious races in the world, the Athens Classic Marathon. Wijenberg, 39 wants to run for the Netherlands in the Olympic Games marathon next year, so she came to Athens two days ago to do a reconnaissance of one of the toughest courses in the world. "She intended to do a hard training run, just to 32 kilometres," explained husband Ger, "but at exactly 32k, she passed the race leader". That was race favourite, Margaret Karie of Kenya, who was beginning to suffer from the heat and humidity, as well as the brutal hills between Marathon and Athens. "I felt good, so I decided to keep going," said Nadja in heavily accented English, for she is a former Russian marathoner, from the Chubasa region, some 800 kilometres east of Moscow. Her maiden name was Ilyina, and in that guise, she ran here in Athens in the 1995 World Cup, and finished eighth. But a race in the Netherlands the previous year had decided her future. "I was a spectator at a race where she ran," said Ger, "and she got stuck in some tapes right in front of me. I freed her, but have kept hold of her ever since". The pair got married, and Nadja acquired Dutch citizenship in 1999, the year she also won the Dutch marathon title for the first time, with a personal best of 2.28.45 in Eindhoven. She ran 2.43.18 yesterday. "The federation has said that it requires either a good performance or a new sub-2.30 to get selected," explained Ger. "We hope they will accept this, otherwise Nadja will run in Rotterdam". That at least is on a fast, flat course next April.

MEN

NAME COUNTRY TIME
1 Zebedayo BAYO TANZANIA 2.16.59
2 Stephen RUGUT KENYA 2.17.06
3 Elias CHEBET KENYA 2.18.22
4 Frederick CHUMBA KENYA 2.18.33
5 Paul ATUDONYANG KENYA 2.19.30
6 John MOIBEN KENYA 2.19.49
7 David BUSIENEI KENYA 2.21.54
8 Nikos POLIAS GREECE 2.23.16
9 Gerasimos KOKOTOS GREECE 2.26.02
10 Wesley CHELULE KENYA 2.28.18

WOMEN

NAME COUNTRY TIME
1 Nadja WIJENBERG NETHERLANDS 2.43.16
2 Georgia APATZIDOU GREECE 2.46.47
3 Margaret KARIE KENYA 2.48.48

Pat Butcher


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