Gulume Tollesa started with the intention of retaining her title, but the 25-year-old also had one eye on the course record of 2:30:12, set six years ago by compatriot Misiker Demissie. Joined by a small handful of athletes, Gulume passed through 10 kilometers in 34:45 before reaching halfway in 1:14:22, suggesting a finishing time within 2:30 was possible.
The lead pack of Gulume, fellow Ethiopians Meskerem Assefa, Fantu Jimma, Betelhem Moges, Meseret Legesse and Kenya’s Lucy Kabuu stayed together for another 10 kilometers, passing the 30-kilometre point in 1:47:09.
Betelhem and Meseret were the first of those to fade, shortly followed by Lucy Kabuu. The remaining trio – Gulume Tollesa, Meskerem Assefa and Meseret Jimma – ran together for another 20 minutes before Jimma began to drift back, leaving Gulume Tollesa and Meskerem Assefa out in front.