Abdi smashes European marathon record with 2:03:36 for victory in Rotterdam

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  • Abdi smashes European marathon record with 2:03:36 for victory in Rotterdam

Only 77 days after winning a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Bashir Abdi capped off his tremendous season by winning the 40th edition of the NN Rotterdam Marathon on Sunday (24) in 2:03:36 to become the first European to break the 2:04-barrier for the distance.

Abdi bided his time in the second half, moving through the field gradually before passing the reigning champion Marius Kipserem from Kenya at the 36km checkpoint and forging on to the first victory of his marathon career.

Abdi’s winning time of 2:03:36 took a significant chunk off the previous European record of 2:04:16 which was set by Türkiye’s Kaan Kigen Ozbilen in 2019 and the Belgian also broke the course record of 2:04:11 which had stood to Kipserem since 2019. Kipserem finished second to Abdi on this occasion in 2:04:04 with Ethiopia's former 1500m specialist Dawit Wolde third in 2:04:26.

"The crowd went crazy at certain parts. They called my name. That gave me goosebumps. It motivated me," said Abdi, who has been training in Font Romeu in the build-up to this race.

Abdi made his marathon debut in Rotterdam three years ago when he recovered from a heavy fall at the start to clock a creditable 2:10:46. The 32-year-old improved to 2:06:14 in 2019 and then 2:04:49 in the 2020 Tokyo Marathon which put the European record into view.


And despite the quick turnaround since the Tokyo Olympics, Abdi has successfully taken the European record into unchartered territory. He also moves up to equal 14th on the world all-time list, alongside Ethiopia's London Marathon winner Sisay Lemma (2:03:36) and just ahead of Kenya's former world record-holder Patrick Makau (2:03:38).

In the women's race, Kenya's Stella Barsosio won in an unopposed 2:22:08, breaking the tape more than eight minutes ahead of Ukraine's Nataliya Lehonkova in 2:30:28.

National records for Lahti and Petros in Valencia

Behind Letesenbet Gidey’s sensational world half marathon record of 62:52 in the Valencia Half Marathon, Sweden’s Sarah Lahti revised her national record to 68:19 to finish eighth. 

Her time is the fifth fastest by a European this year behind Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter (67:09), Germany’s Melat Kejeta (67:33), Great Britain’s Eilish McColgan (67:48) and Russia’s Yelena Korobkina (68:07).  One place behind Lahti in Valencia was Ireland's two-time former European cross country champion Fionnuala McCormack, who ran a personal best of 69:31.


In the men’s race Amanal Petros was 12th in a German record of 60:09, just two seconds shy of the European lead which is held jointly by Italy’s Eyob Faniel and Norway’s Zerei Kbrom.

Petros’ time shaved 25 seconds off the long-standing national record which had been set by Carsten Eich in 1993, which at the time was a European best for the distance.

At the Leeds Abbey Dash 10K on Sunday, former European U23 cross country champion Jess Piasecki raced to victory in a fast 31:20 to move to fourth on the British all-time list. In a high quality race, Piasecki defeated Charlotte Arter (31:32) and fellow Tokyo 2020 Olympian Jess Judd (31:40).

In the Venice Marathon on Sunday, Ukrainian-born Italian Sofia Yaremchuk won on her debut at the distance in 2:29:12.

With the SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Fingal-Dublin less than 50 days away, a handful of countries across Europe staged their national championships last weekend.

European cross country medallists scoop up domestic titles

At the Swedish Cross Country Championships which took place in Hoganas across the weekend, 2019 senior bronze medallist Samrawit Mengsteab took victories in both the senior women's 4km in 11:46 and in the 10km in 33:50.

On the men's side, former 800m specialist Andreas Almgren won the 4km title in his first serious cross country race in 10:01 ahead of Samuel Russom in 10:06. The latter returned the following day to win over 10km in 28:56 by eight seconds from Emil Millan de la Oliva.


At the Bulgarian Cross Country Championships in Pirdop on Saturday (23), former European cross country country medallists Mitko Tsenov and Militsa Mircheva won the senior men’s and women’s titles.

At the Serbian Cross Country Championships in Sombor, 44-year-old Olivera Jevtic - a five-time medallist at the European Cross Country Championships - won the senior women’s 8km in 30:25. Milos Malesevic won the senior men’s 10km in 32:53.

At the Turkish Cross Country Championships in Adana, Esma Aydemir won the senior women’s 6km in 20:42 with Sezgin Atac winning the senior men’s 10km in 29:34.

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