Tigist Assefa of Ethiopia defied the odds with a shocking victory at the 2022 Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:15:37 to obliterate the course record by almost three minutes. The run is the third-fastest women’s marathon ever, and, most astonishingly, a personal best of nearly 20 minutes.
The 28-year-old was a non-factor in the lead-up discussion to the race, as she had run just one marathon: a 2:34:00 this past March at the Riyadh Marathon in Saudi Arabia. On Sunday in Berlin, Assefa ran 1:08:13 for the first half with the pack, then negative split 1:07:25 on the back end, throwing down 15:53 and 15:46 splits at the 30K and 35K marks to distance the field by nearly three minutes.
She held an average mile pace of 5 minutes, 10 seconds for the duration of the 26.2 miles.
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“My preparation was very fantastic. I did what I need [sic]. My training was really fantastic… I am really happy today,” Assefa said through a translator after the race.
The race for runner-up honors was tight, as Rosemary Wanjiru of Kenya edged Ethiopia’s Tigist Abayechew, 2:18:00 to 2:18:03, in her debut marathon. Both ran under the previous course record of 2:18:11, set in 2018 by Gladys Cherono.
Assefa has only recently turned to the roads after spending much of her career as an 800-meter runner. She represented Ethiopia at the 2016 Olympic Games in the 800 meters, where she bowed out in the first round with a 2:00.21 performance. With personal bests of 1:59.24 in the 800 meters and 54.05 in the 400 meters, Assefa’s range is unprecedented.
Prerace favorite Keira D’Amato’s attempt to improve her American record of 2:19:12 did not come to fruition, though she held on to finish sixth in 2:21:48.
Johanna Gretschel is a freelance writer and broadcaster living in Austin, Texas, who has covered elite track and field and running in all its forms. She contributes to Runner’s World, ESPN, Austin American-Statesman, FloTrack, MileSplit, Women’s Running and Podium Runner. Yes, she has run a marathon!