Helalia Johannes wins the Dublin City Marathon

HELALIA Johannes gave a great performance to win the Dublin City Marathon for the second time in a time of 2:32:32 on Sunday.

After a gruelling 42km, there was still nothing separating Johannes and Ehite Gebireyes of Ethiopia, but in a nail-biting finish she powered ahead to beat the Ethiopian by a mere two seconds.

It was the second time that Johannes had won the Dublin Marathon and her fourth appearance overall at the event.

After the race she said it was the great spirit of the Dubliners and Irish people that made the race so special.

“This country is a beautiful country and the people from Dublin are so friendly, I love Dublin,” she was quoted as saying by The Irish Times.

Johannes first competed at the Dublin Marathon in 2007 when she came fourth in a time of 2:35:30, and a year later she came second in 2:32:30. In 2011 she won the marathon for the first time in a time of 2:30:33.

Dereje Debele Tulu, from Ethiopia won the Elite Men’s category in a time of 2:12:18, followed by compatriots Dereje Urgecha Beyecha in 2:14:38 and Asefa Legese Bekele with a time of 2:15:01.

Sunday’s marathon saw the largest field of entrants in the history of the race with just under 20 000 athletes taking part.

With her performance, Johannes showed that she is back to her best after

after taking a year off for the birth of her son last year.

In her first marathon since the birth, she came fifth at the Vienna Marathon in April this year in a time of 2:35:56.

It was well within the 2016 Olympic Games qualifying time of 2:42:00 and Johannes packed her bags for Rio, where she was one of four athletes to represent Namibia in the women’s marathon. They however failed to make an impression as Beata Naigambo came 41st in 2:36:32 and Johannes 56th in 2:39:55.

Johannes also gave a timely reminder to her rival and friend, Naigambo, that she is back to her best.

The two athletes have been Namibia’s top female marathon runners over the past decade, spurring each other on to greater heights as they constantly brought the national record down.

Over the past decade the national record has changed hands numerous times between them as they brought it down by close to ten minutes.

Johannes first broke the national record at the very same Dublin Marathon in 2007 with a time of 2:35:30, but Naigambo brought it down to 2:33:17 at the Pyongyang Marathon the next year.

They continued to exchange the record and by January 2012, Naigambo became the first to go under the 2:30:00 barrier with a time of 2:29:20 at the Dubai Marathon.

Later that year, however, Johannes smashed the record by more than three minutes when she came 12th at the London Olympics in 2:26:09.

That record has stood since then, but in November last year, Naigambo came the closest, winning the Valencia Marathon in 2:26:58.

That performance helped Naigambo win the Sportswoman of the Year award last Friday, for the second time in her career.

Johannes has won the award three times and with both still in their prime at the age of 36, that rivalry is set to continue for a while.

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