Chala Regasa wins and Nazret Weldu triumphs with Olympic qualifier

Decisive victories in 2:06:35 and 2:24:08 bring huge enthusiasm to the streets of Vienna

Chala Regasa and Nazret Weldu are the winners of the 41st Vienna City Marathon. Both produced such dominating performances that they finished minutes ahead. The Ethiopian crossed the line in 2:06:35 which is the third fastest time in the history of the event. In windy conditions this remained the only sub 2:10 time of the day. Kenyans Bernard Muia and Albert Kangogo followed in second and third places with 2:10:42 and 2:10:44 respectively. In cold temperatures between 5 and 8 Celsius Nazret Weldu produced the first ever Eritrean victory at the Vienna City Marathon. With 2:24:08 she achieved qualification for the Olympic Games in Paris this summer and was the only athlete in the race to do so. Newcomer Faith Chepkoech produced a major surprise, when she came through in the late stages and took second in 2:26:22. Fellow-Kenyan Rebecca Tanui was third with 2:26:53. 

Organisers registered a total of 42,625 athletes from 143 nations including races at shorter distances. Among them were 10,024 marathon runners. This is the third highest entry figure ever in the history of an event that belongs to the world’s major marathons.

It was only during the early stages that the men were running split times which pointed towards a possible course record. That was partly because there is a drop in the first section of the course and the wind came from behind. At half way it was obvious that an attack on Samwel Mailu’s 2:05:08 course record would not be on the cards in the windy conditions. A group of five runners passed this point in 63:03 behind two pacemakers: Daniel Paulus of Namibia, who hoped to run inside the Olympic qualifying time of 2:08:10, Chala Regasa and Kenyans Bernard Muia, Felix Kibitok and Leonard Barsoton.

Daniel Paulus did push the pace a couple of times, but he could not hold on after the 30k point. When the last of the pacemakers dropped out at this point it was Chala Regasa who was ahead and quickly built a big lead. It was no coincidence that he pulled away in the section beyond 30k that leads through the Prater Park. In 2019 Chala Regasa was among the pacemakers when Eliud Kipchoge sensationally broke the two hour barrier in Vienna. “I knew the section between 30 and 38k and that was why I pushed ahead there,“ said the 26 year-old Ethiopian who is a training partner of Kenenisa Bekele. “I hoped to break 2:06 today and I tried. But it was very windy in the final 10 kilometres and it was not possible,“ said Chala Regasa, who was the fastest runner on the start list with his PB of 2:06:11. With 2:06:35 he still achieved the third fastest time ever run in the Vienna City Marathon. Besides Samwel Mailu only Ethiopia's Getu Feleke, who ran 2:05:41 ten years ago, has been faster on this course. 

Over four minutes behind Chala Regasa there was a thrilling fight for the remaining podium places. Bernard Muia came through to take second in 2:10:42. The Kenyan, who won the Munich Marathon last October with a PB of 2:09:17, had been in fourth position at 40k and was 48 seconds behind second place at that point. It was similar with fellow-Kenyan Albert Kangogo, who was sixth at 40k and then finished third with 2:10:44.

In the women’s race three runners broke away very early in the race. Nazret Weldu, Rebecca Tanui and Kenya’s Shyline Torotich were already leading by a couple of seconds at the 5k mark. As in the men’s race they also slowed a little after the first section. With a half way split of 71:49 the 2:20:59 course record was out of reach for the trio. 

While Nazret Weldu was able to more or less keep the pace even in the windier sections of the second half the Kenyans struggled. Shyline Torotich was dropped around 23k and later ended up in sixth with 2:30:36. Rebecca Tanui was still with Nazret Weldu at 30k (1:42:21), but then also slowed. While she took third place Faith Chepkoech managed to move herself up from fourth place at 30k to second despite taking a wrong turn. Around the 31k mark the Kenyan ran around 150 metres off the course, then turned and ran back, loosing about one minute. It was the first time that an international very unexperienced athlete of the "OPEC Fund Rookie Team“ managed to achieve a podium place in the Vienna City Marathon. The 26 year-old ran 2:26:22, improving her PB from a race in Soweto, South Africa, by over eleven minutes. 

“It was a great day for me. My big goal was to qualify for the Olympic Games and if possible I wanted to win - I have achieved both,“ said Nazret Weldu, who was fourth at the World Championships in Eugene in 2022. “Apart from the wind it was a fantastic race. This victory gives me a lot of confidence. I will now try to win a medal at the Olympic Games in Paris and then I hope to come back to Vienna next year to run faster."

Among the other running events staged during the weekend was an upcoming 5k race. Over 3,300 runners entered the race which took place on Saturday evening and saw its second edition. Austrian youngster Marcel Tobler was the winner with a course record of 14:22. Lili Anna Vindics-Tóth of Hungary took the women’s race in 15:57.

Results, Men:
1. Chala Regasa ETH 2:06:35
2. Bernard Muia KEN 2:10:42
3. Albert Kangogo KEN 2:10:44
4. Leonard Barsoton KEN 2:10:44
5. Cameron Avery NZL 2:10:52
6. Juan Pacheco MEX 2:11:42
7. Felix Kibitok KEN 2:12:44
8. Mica Cheserek KEN 2:13:05
9. Aloyce Felix Simbu TAN 2:13:31
10. Daniel Paulus NAM 2:13:34

1. Nazret Weldu ERI 2:24:08
2. Faith Chepkoech KEN 2:26:22
3. Rebecca Tanui KEN 2:26:53
4. Jovana De La Cruz Capani PER 2:27:54
5. Lilia Fisikovici MDA 2:30:06
6. Shyline Torotich KEN 2:30:36
7. Leydy Romero COL 2:30:37
8. Helalia Johannes NAM 2:30:53
9. Mokulubete Makatisi LES 2:30:54
10. Julia Mayer AUT 2:31:25


VCM News / Jörg Wenig