Abdelkerim Boubker claimed victory in the 2011 Athens Classic Marathon (Sunday, November 13) and loosened the dominance Kenyan runners have in the major events. The Moroccan athlete finished in 2:11:40, exactly one minute faster than Raymond Bett's 2010 performance, and three minutes quicker than his previous PB.
In what is said to be some of the worst conditions the event has witnessed, runners faced a biting, wet and swirling breeze in temperatures below 10°C. The beginning of the race saw a group of six break, with Raymond Bett sitting behind the other runners and seemingly following the same strategy that brought him victory last year.
By the 31k mark, however, Boubker made a decisive surge and only had Kenya's Sammy Chumba and Daniel Gatheru of Ethiopia as company. Chumba finished in second (2:13:27), while Gatheru completed the top trio in a time of 2:16:12. Last year's winner Raymond Bett was unable to finish.
The significance of winning in such a historic setting was certainly not lost on Boubker, who commented: "This is the highlight of my career. I always felt good through the race, and became more and more confident that I could win. To win this race, and finish in this stadium, makes me very proud."
In what turned out to be a closely contested battle in the women's field, Ethiopian Elfeneshe Melaku finished a mere six seconds ahead of Ukranian runner Kamila Khanipova (2:35:31). The athletes ran shoulder to shoulder until Melaku secured victory with a vital break at the 42k mark. Tunisian Amira Benamor finished in third position (2:42:15).
The city boasts an iconic relationship with the marathon with Athens hosting the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. The course is renowned for its difficulty, with runners facing an incline from 10k to 31k. Despite the inclement weather, around 8,500 runners were reported to have participated in the marathon, with a total of 18,55 in all events.