Justin Lagat wrote this piece on the Valencia Marathon, which happened on December 3, 2023. Valencia is one of the fastest marathons in the world. 

Fast times were recorded today, the 3rd of December, at the 2023 Trinidad Alfonso Valencia Marathon as Sisay Lemma and Worknesh Degefa made it a double victory for Ethiopians as they won the men’s and women’s races, respectively.

Lemma became the fourth fastest man in history after running 2:01:48 to win the men’s race ahead of Kenya’s Alexander Motiso (2:03:11) and countryman Dawit Wolde (2:03:48).

For a while, after the half-marathon point, Lemma appeared to be pushing the pacemaker to go faster as they began to break away from the rest of the leading pack. A single file formed behind them. But Kibiwott Kandie and Wolde would soon catch up with the two leaders.

The pacer dropped out at 30K, and Kandie immediately took charge of the race at the front, but the two Ethiopians, Lemma and Wolde, followed him closely. Perhaps not wanting to do the pacing work, the pace slowed down a bit before Wolde stepped to the front, sandwiching Kandie with his countryman.

Sisay Lemma becomes number 4 on the all-time marathon list, photo by Valencia Marathon Trinidad Alfonso.

Eventually, Sisay broke away and opened a comfortable gap to the finish line. As the other two began to falter, Motiso came strongly from behind to overtake and secure the second place, while Wolde held on for third place.

It was the first time for Lemma to run in Valencia, and he got rewarded with a new course record and a personal best time.

“I like it in Valencia. I broke my PB. I tried to break the course record from the start of the race,” Lemma said after the race.
Kenenisa Bekele breaks WR for Masters marathon, photo by Valencia Marathon Trinidad Alfonso

Fourth place went to Kenenisa Bekele, who happened to have been wearing a bib bearing the position he would finish in. The 41-year-old legendary long-distance runner showed that he is still a force to reckon with in the marathon after setting a new world record of 2:04:19 for the masters’ category.

Ethiopians dominated the women’s podium. Just like in the men’s race, the winner was not one of the pre-race favorites. Degefa won the race in 2:15:51 ahead of Almaz Ayana in 2:16:22 and Hiwot Gebrekidan in 2:17:59.

Worknesh Degefa won Valencia in 2:15.51, her first marathon in 4 years, photo by Valencia Marathon Trinidad Alfonso

From the beginning, the women’s field remained in a relatively large pack that included several male runners who seemed content to go with their pace for their own goals. They crossed the 5K in 16, then the 10K point in 32:02.

The race progressed into a duel between Ayana and Degefa in the latter stages, where the latter proved stronger as she extended her lead to win the title by twenty-one seconds.