The Valencia Marathon is on the rise and promises a million euros. MARATÓN VALENCIA

Valencia is becoming one of the great references in long-distance running, as demonstrated by the 10,000m world records set in 2021 by Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda and Letensebet Gidey of Ethiopia, in a spectacular event that made headlines around the world.

This time it was the road race and just a month after the half marathon, the Trinidad Alfonso Valencia Marathon took place on Sunday 3 December with an extraordinary line-up of stars and great international and national records, two Spanish records and the promise of a million euros if the world record is broken in either the men's or women's race in 2024 .

One of the stars was Joshua Cheptegei. Making his debut at the historic Olympic distance, the three-time World 10,000m champion competed alongside veteran multi-time World and Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele (41), compatriots Dawit Wolde and Sissay Lemma, and Kenya's Alexander Mutiso.

Lemma, however, put an end to the debate in the best race of his life, despite having already won in Frankfurt (2015), London (2021) and at the Ankara Half Marathon last October. His personal best came at the Berlin Marathon in 2019, when he finished third in 2h:03:36. The Abyssinian gave his rivals no chance in exceptional weather conditions, taking advantage of the fact that this is one of the fastest races over the distance. 

Sissay Lemma flew in the Valencia Marathon. © Getty Images
Sissay Lemma flew in the Valencia Marathon. © Getty Images

Sissay Lemma broke his personal best in 2h:01:48 to become the second fastest runner of the year behind Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum, who set the world record on 8 October in Chicago (2h:00.35), and the fourth fastest of all time behind Kenya's brilliant Eliud Kipchoge (2h:01:09) and Bekele (2h:01:41). 

Second place in Valencia went to Mutiso in 2h:03:11 (12th all-time), Wolde (2h:03.48) and Kenenisa Bekele, who could not keep up the pace (2h:04:19). And what about Joshua Cheptegei? He paid dearly for his debut ambition, finishing 37th in 2h:08:59. 

Another outstanding athlete was Tariku Novales. The Spanish athlete of Ethiopian origin raced on the revolutionary and ultra-lightweight Adidas 'Adizero Adios EVO 1' and smashed his personal best with a time of 2h:08.59. He shaved exactly one and a half minutes off his personal best by exactly and broke the Spanish record with 2h:05.48 (the previous record was held by Ayad Lamdassem with 2h:06.25).

Novales smashed the Spanish record. © Getty Images
Novales smashed the Spanish record. © Getty Images

Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana was in her second year as a marathoner after winning Olympic gold and a world record over 10,000m at Rio '16, as well as two world titles on the track (5,000m and 10,000m). In fact, after three years away from athletics due to injury and maternity, she returned in 2022 with the best time ever for a female marathon debutant, 2h:17:20 in Amsterdam.
The problem for her was that her compatriot Worknesh Degefa, who had won the Dubai and Boston marathons in the past, was also entered. Both put in outstanding performances, with Degefa winning in the seventh-best time in history (2:15:51) and Ayana finishing second in the eighth-best time (2:16:22).

Hiwot Gebrekidan was third (2:17.59) and Majida Maayouf, a Spanish athlete of Ethiopian origin who became a citizen last summer, was fifth in 2:21.27, breaking the national record held by another Moroccan-born athlete, Fatima Ouhaddou (2:25.30), by more than four minutes.

Worknesh Degefa shone in Valencia. © Getty Images
Worknesh Degefa shone in Valencia. © Getty Images

The promise of a million

Juan Roig, president of the Trinidad Alfonso Foundation and patron of the race, took centre stage at the end of the race. The famous Spanish businessman, who is also president of Euroleague club Valencia Basket, launched a major economic challenge.

"We want to announce that whoever breaks the world record will receive one million euros, if they break it in Valencia, of course. Paco Borao will give one half (the race director who was with him) and I will give him the other half. One of our dreams is to break the world record here and we still have a lot of work to do. What I do know is that one day the world record will come to Valencia. I don't know when, but it will come. We will fight for it," said Roig.