Athletics-Ethiopia's Assefa smashes women's marathon world record in Berlin

Athletics - Berlin Marathon - Berlin, Germany - September 24, 2023 Ethiopia's Tigist Assefa crosses the finish line to win the women's Berlin Marathon REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

BERLIN (Reuters) -Ethiopia's Tigst Assefa shattered the women's marathon world record in Berlin on Sunday, lopping off more than two minutes from the previous best to clock an official time of two hours 11 minutes and 53 seconds.

Assefa, who had set a course record with a personal best last year, set a blistering early pace, gradually shaking off any competition to pulverise Kenyan Brigid Kosgei's record of two hours 14 minutes and four seconds set in 2019.

Remarkably, her splits were faster after the halfway mark.

"I knew I wanted to go for the world record but I never thought I would do this time," said the 26-year-old, a former 800-metre runner. "It was the result of hard work."

With her time she set a marker for next year's Paris Olympics while also almost certainly nailing down a spot on the Ethiopian Olympic team for 2024.

"I have set a mark now. The decision does not lie with me but with officials. It is up to the National Committee to select me for the team."

Her remarkable victory overshadowed men's world record holder Eliud Kipchoge's record fifth victory on Berlin's quick and flat inner-city course.

The 38-year-old Kenyan, who is aiming to win his third Olympic marathon medal next year in Paris, did not come close to the record he set in Berlin last year, finishing with a time of two hours two minutes 42 seconds.

"I always learn from every race and every victory," Kipchoge said. "I'm very happy to win for the fifth time in Berlin and I shall use these lessons in my preparation for the Olympics."

Compatriot Vincent Kipkemoi was second, with a time of two hours three minutes 13 seconds and Ethiopia's Tadese Takele third.

Climate activists, who had threatened to disrupt the event, tried to run onto the course with buckets of orange paint but were quickly stopped and taken away by police just minutes before the start.

Assefa, who only started racing marathons in April last year, made her intentions clear from the start with a lightning-quick pace of her own.

Along with compatriot Workenesh Edesa they carved out a gap from the chasing pack but Edesa could not keep up and was dropped by the 17th kilometre.

She clocked an hour six minutes 20 seconds at the halfway mark and was one of six women to be on world record time at that stage as the Berlin marathon lived up to its reputation as one of the world's fastest.

She had no problem maintaining her pace and at the 37km mark she was just three seconds per kilometre slower than Kipchoge's time at the same stage, cruising to a sensational world record.

Sheila Chepkirui of Kenya came second almost six minutes behind, with Tanzania's Magdalena Shauri in third.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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