Adola stuns Bekele in Berlin sunshine

The talk all week was of records, and it all centred around Kenenisa Bekele.

Alongside the great man at Friday’s press conference, Guye Adola nodded quietly and answered in hushed tones when it was his turn to speak.

On Sunday, he let his feet – which he claimed were on fire during the race – do the talking.

The 30-year-old Ethiopian did not put a step out of place for 26.2 miles to claim his first AbbottWMM race win in the city where he almost toppled Eliud Kipchoge in 2017.

“Four years ago I was No. 2. I thought one day I could win this race. Today I did it,” he said afterwards.

With all eyes on Bekele, Adola went about his business in the first 10km of the race as the pace rattled along underneath the world record-setting early splits recorded by Kipchoge in 2018.

At 15km Bekele began to show signs of distress as he dropped off the lead group, only to regain contact following a blistering first half of 60:48. It seemed the elder statesman may have displayed all his marathon wisdom to allow the leaders to set such a fierce pace before taking advantage in the second half of the race.

But at 35km, with just Adola for company, Bekele began to struggle again.

“It was tough,” said Bekele.

“I couldn’t expect this in the beginning. I felt my preparation wasn’t 100%, especially after I was affected by COVID eight months ago.”

Adola left the decorated Olympian in his rearview mirror, only for the unheralded Bethwel Yegon to materialise behind him. The Kenyan, assigned to the second pace group by the organisers, had swept past Bekele and, for a short while, threatened to run away from Adola in the latter stages.

Adola admitted he was surprised to find Yegon at his shoulder, but the man from Ethiopia’s Oromiya Region kept his nerve and was soon back in control.

By the time he made the turn for home having seen off the brief challenge from the RunCzech Racing Team man, he could focus on soaking up the sound and fury of a crowd denied these scenes in 2020.

Adola’s finishing time of 2:05:45 was not the kind of winning number we have grown accustomed to in Berlin, but that will matter little to him.