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Athletics at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games:

Men's Marathon

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Host City: Beijing, China
Venue(s): Beijing National Stadium, Beijing
Date Started: August 24, 2008
Date Finished: August 24, 2008
Format: 42,195 metres (26 miles, 385 yards) point-to-point.

Gold: KEN Sammy Wanjiru
Silver: MAR Jaouad Gharib
Bronze: ETH Tsegaye Kebede


The world’s best marathoner was considered Ethiopian [Haile Gebrselassie] who had first made his mark on the track with 10K gold medals in 1996 and 2000 and World Championships at 10K in 1993, 1995, 1997, and 1999. He began running the marathon seriously in 2005, and in September 2007 had broken the world record with 2-04:26 in Berlin. But he opted out of the marathon in Beijing, concerned about air quality and its possible deleterious effects on his health. This left the race wide open. The day of the race saw temperatures of 24° C. (77° F.) and high humidity, negating chances for a fast time. Kenyan [Samuel Wanjiru] knew the heat would make fast times difficult but had trained in the heat in Japan and was determined to set a very fast pace. He went to the lead immediately, passing 5K in 14:52, and many of the lead runners would not go with him, thinking the pace was too fast for the conditions. Wanjiru eased slightly after the opening 5K but ran in the lead throughout. At the halfway mark, he had cut the lead pack to only five runners – [Yonas Kifle] (ERI), [Deriba Merga] (ETH), [Martin Lel] (KEN), and Moroccan [Jaouad Gharib]. After 30K, only Gharib could stay with Wanjiru. But at 35K, they shared a water bottle, and Wanjiru then put the hammer down to drop Gharib, eventually winning by 44 seconds in 2-06:32, considered stunning in the heat. Ethiopia’s [Tsegaye Kebede] closed fast to get the silver medal but was almost three minutes back of Gharib. In September, Gebrselassie again broke the marathon world record at the Berlin race, running 2-03:59.

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