Kenya’s Kipkoech Ruto and Ethiopia’s Hailemaryam Ayantu Dakebo Win the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon

On the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon, which was dominated by Ethiopian and Kenyan Runners, Kipkoech Ruto and Hailemaryam Ayantu Dakebo took the men and women titles, respectively.

By Andrew Erickson | Triblive

Kipkoech Ruto reached the apex of the dreaded Forbes Avenue hill near the 12th mile of the Pittsburgh Marathon course Sunday with no challengers on the horizon.

It looked like it was going to be a lonely morning for the Kenyan. Then he added some company.

Ruto built a lead of more than 30 seconds by Mile 12, but was caught by Werkuhah Aboye Seyoum of Ethiopia less than nine miles later. A duel emerged for several miles then evaporated, as Ruto made his final push on a Liberty Avenue straightaway two hours into his race.

The Kenyan, who had looked over his shoulder on Fifth Avenue near Central Catholic High School and again at the 19th mile marker as his lead diminished, was all alone once more as he broke the tape on Boulevard of the Allies, winning the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon in 2 hours, 17 minutes and 27 seconds.

“It was good, it was a very good race,” said Ruto moments after he was handed an enlarged $8,000 check. “I feel very good because I won.”

Seyoum took second in 2:18:42, followed by American Tyler Jermann, who crossed the line in 2:20:37.

Hailemaryam Ayantu Dakebo of Ethiopia was the first woman across the line in 2:39:18. Bizuwork Getahun Kasaye, who is married to Seyoum, finished second in 2:42:47 and Phebe Ko, an American from San Francisco, took third in 2:48.

Ruto reached the race’s halfway point in 1:06:29, but began to log slower miles thereafter. He ran miles 18 and 19 in 5:20 and 5:22, respectively, before Seyoum caught him as Bryant Street met North Negley Avenue in Highland Park.

“It was a push,” Seyoum said. “At 20 miles, that push came on.”

Neither made a significant move as the race’s pace slowed. The two runners ran the downhill 24th mile in 5:00, but scaled back to 5:41 for the next mile. Ruto said he wasn’t tired, instead feigning fatigue to preserve energy before his final sprint.

“I decided to relax,” he said.

Seyoum, who took third last year in Pittsburgh, didn’t say much when asked about Ruto reclaiming the lead. Instead, he patted his quadriceps, which took a pounding on a steep descent down Liberty Avenue as he unsuccessfully tried to build on a lead of a few yards.

“The course is so much up-down, up-down,” Seyoum said. “(But) yes, I’m happy. I’m happy.”

Jermann, who graduated from Iowa State in 2015 and now trains in Flagstaff, Ariz., said Pittsburgh was his fourth marathon in the last eight months. He ran with fellow Americans Tony Migliozzi and Jed Christiansen, the assistant track and field coach at Thiel College, early and made his charge in the back half of the race.

“It was more the hills that I was worried about. I heard it gets real hilly in the second half,” said Jermann, who finished 36th at the U.S. Olympic Trials in February. “It was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. We went through halfway together and then made a little move. I saw the guys up front, smelled a little blood and got aggressive.”

Ko took second in the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009 and ‘10. She briefly stepped away from full-time training to complete her residency in anesthesiology, but said she now finds the time for high-intensity training, even as a full-time anesthesiologist.

“It’s hard when you’re on call, but I feel like (running) helps balance me out,” Ko said. “It makes it less stressful in a sense, because you’re like, ‘Well, running’s not everything.’ ”

Running might not be everything in Ko’s busy life, but it was in the closing stretch of the Pittsburgh Marathon, with the bronze medal just strides away.

“I got really, just like, ‘Don’t panic, keep going,’ ” Ko said. “You don’t really know what you have until the last mile, and then I could just see the finish line.”