This, when Sunday was barely dawn in Valencia, cold and a feisty red sun that bathed the morning in unreality, and 33,000 people in shorts and suspenders jogging along the sidewalks, was not a marathon but the closest thing to a Three Kings parade, a festival of sweat and talent, promises of eternal happiness. and candy for everyone in the form of records of all kinds and colors.
Miguel Indurain on a bicycle, the pride of a champion that does not go out in Kenenisa Bekele and a lesson in humility from Joshua Cheptegei, the King himself, who teaches atheists and non-believers that the marathon wall, the barrier with which he collided at kilometer 30, still exists despite atomic shoes and fructose and maltodextrin gels, and a dash of caffeine, absorbed on the run and in staggering amounts. Both, the future and the past, imposed a suicidal and unbearable pace (28m 55s at kilometer 10; 60m 35s in the half marathon) that Bekele, a wise veteran, upright and arrogant running in solitude in streets where the shadows fled in his wake, transformed, running at his own pace on Chinese shoes in a very dignified 2h 4m 19s at the end of the 42.195 kilometers, and a fourth place; Cheptegei, who after the half-marathon entered uncharted territory, chased the crazy pace until it burst. He ended up almost on all fours. Nine minutes the last two kilometres. 2h 8m 59s at the end.
And Juan Roig, patron of Mercadona and sponsor of the marathon through the Trinidad Alfonso Foundation, promises one million euros to the athlete who goes down in his two-hour marathon.
These are childish times of minimal resistance to frustration in which the last is the only thing and the record, the obligation, because if not, you don't exist, and Valencia, generous, responds to the challenge by leading the way to the other marathons always with go-go records. The first, that of the race, was beaten by the winner, Sisay Lemma, a veteran Ethiopian (33 years old), a regular of the big marathons, and the one from Valencia was the 22nd he competed in, but never super-outstanding (his best time until Valencia, 2h 3m 36s, earned him to be seventh in Berlin four years ago), an elegant athlete who had the detail of not beating by 7s the Ethiopian record held by Bekele since, precisely, Berlin 2019. Lemma's 2h 1m 48s becomes, in any case, the fourth best mark in history in a variable geometry ranking led for two months by the world record of the 23-year-old, Kelvin Kiptum, 2h 0m 35s.
And behind Lemma and his hares up to kilometre 30, two Spanish records in a few minutes. Majida Maayouf, a 33-year-old from Alava, and Tariku Novales, a 25-year-old from Galicia, are the new kings.
Despite some chaotic and irregular hares that made him go crazy with anxiety, Novales, a man of his word, fulfilled his promise, dispossessed Ayad Lamdassem of the men's national record and, with his 2h 5m 48s, became the first Spanish marathoner under 2h 6m, the barrier of his motivation in his long runs in the highlands of Ethiopia with the gang of his African friends or on the slopes of the Casa de Campo under the scrutinizing gaze of its coach, Juan del Campo.
At the end of the race, and in his athletic maturity, Novales, passport to the Paris Games in his pocket, Spanish flag as Superman's cape, hanging around his neck so that his gratitude to his brand can be seen, white sneakers made in China numbered, 75 of a series of 521 manufactured, his athletic Stradivarius, does not allow the adrenaline to calm down and is inflamed when asked about the aid he receives from the federation Spaniard. "Don't bring up the subject because the anger I have with the federation is huge," says Novales, who, at least, will receive 25,000 euros that Valencia pays for the record, a cheque from which he will deduct the part of coach and manager, and continues. "I don't know how to make them take me into account, so that they take into account the Spanish marathon. The federation's aid system is disastrous for marathon runners. I'm not on any plan of any kind. I've been on the Olympic minimum since last year and I've asked for help and I've been told I don't meet the criteria. It's a real shame. If they saw my bank account right now, they would laugh," adds the best Spanish marathon runner of the moment, who lives in a rented apartment shared with other athletes in Guadalajara. "I've invested everything in being able to get to this state of shape and it's not cheap to prepare for a marathon, all financed thanks to the help that Adidas gives me, because otherwise I'm sure it would be totally impossible. The federation, apart from ignoring me and making me wait months to give me an answer, has told me directly that I don't meet the criteria so, well, I don't know, I don't know... People freak out when I tell them that I don't have any kind of help, that a 2h 7m athlete doesn't have any kind of help... I don't know, I'm going to shut up because if I don't..."
Majida Maayouf crosses the finish line breaking the Spanish record.Manuel Bruque (EFE)
The women's race was won by another Ethiopian, Worknesh Degefa (2h 15m 51s), and Maayouf came fifth, who took a five-minute bite out of the women's national record (2h 21m 27s). The Basque athlete is of fewer words than Novales, but she also has a story to tell, that of her life. "I've been here in Spain since 2011, at Bilbao Athletics and now at Asics. I was an athlete as a child in Morocco. I started athletics when I was 12 years old, but after that I couldn't continue because, well, there are eight of us and my father barely had enough to feed us. And I haven't been able to continue training because I didn't have anything," says the national record holder, who settled in Salvatierra, near Vitoria, 12 years ago and has had Spanish nationality since last June and who is coached, from Getafe, by the historic Fernando Rodríguez, already coach of Vicente Antón, winner in Valencia in 1984. "When I arrived in Spain, for me it was like starting from scratch and forgetting the time when I was in Morocco. I've been growing year after year."
His last marathon as a Moroccan, last year in Valencia, was already run by Maayouf in 2h 21m, which clearly anticipated his Spanish record, but not the controversy that accompanied it in the form of a positive for terbutaline and a therapeutic justification written a posteriori with an earlier date, a practice so common that neither the Spanish anti-doping agency nor the AIU, The World Athletics Agency saw this as grounds for sanction. "The story touched me," she says. "But it ended up motivating me. I've always said that I have to speak in a hurry, not answering everyone. And when the time comes, you have to do well and run well."
A few more Spaniards are also running very well, transforming the national historical ranking into a merry-go-round. Both Fátima Ouhaddou (2h 25m 30s) and the debutant Laura Luengo (2h 25m 35s) also improved the previous Spanish record (2h 26m 14s, by Marta Galimany), and Irene Pelayo (2h 26m 40s) and María José Pérez (2h 26m 42s), also achieved the Olympic minimum.
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