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Firenze Marathon 2018: Victory and a record for European champion from Israel Salpeter

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The 35th edition of the Asics Firenze Marathon was historic, with rain covering the entire event. Victory, as expected, went to Lonah Chemtai Salpeter, European champion in the 10,000-meter race in Berlin this summer.  She trained with her husband, and achieved her best performance in Europe this year. Salpeter closed the race in 2 hours, 24 minutes and 16 seconds (also completing the second half of the race faster than the first, something incredible in Florence), beating the record previously held by Helena Javornic in 2002 (2h28’15”). Second place went to Kenyan Caroline Chepkwony with a time of 2h30’59” (11th place in the history of the event), and third place went to Rwandan Clementine Mukandanga with a time of 2h30’59” (13th in the history of the event). Fourth place was world 100-meter champion Nikolina Sustic, who beat her personal best, which was her objective, with a time of 2h41’51”. The best Italian female was Maurizia Cunico, who finished in eighth place in 2h50’54” for Atletica Casone Noceto.

For the men’s event, victory went to Abdi Ali Gelelchu (his internationally recognized name – his passport says Gelchu). He ran the race in 2h11’32”, placing 16th in the history of the Firenze Marathon. Second place went to Hicham Boufars from Morocco with a time of 2h12’16” (24th in the history of the event) and third place went to Gilbert Kipruto Kirwa, from Kenya, with a time of 2h13’08” (he was also third last year). Best male Italian was Ahmed Nasef from Atletica Reggio in 2h23’19”. Best Tuscan athlete was Matteo D’Intino.

The runners started at 8:30 in Piazza Duomo. 7905 athletes took off, with the start announced by Florence’s mayor, Dario Nardella and Sports Minister of Florence Andrea Vannucci, who followed the race as is tradition on a motorbike with technical director Fulvio Massini.

The first five runners passed the half marathon point at 1h05’05”, with temperatures dropping. The female race was extremely fast. Lonah Salpeter passed the half marathon point together with Ethiopian Gedamu in 1h12’38”, faster than the anticipated 1h13’50”. Her record was predicted at that point, with an expected finishing time of 2h25’13”.


The 13th kilometer, at Piazzale Kennedy in the Cascine was dedicated to Davide Astori, a football player for the Fiorentina who passed away prematurely this year. The Fiorentina’s Vice President Gino Salica, together with Elena Turra, the team’s communication director both ran the Huawei 3×7 relay yesterday, together with other former Fiorentina players. The event also hosted director Marco Roncucci, the female Fiorentina team, and some of the football school’s players. Marco Mengozzi wore jersey number 13, and finished the race in 2 hours 47’50”.


As always, the Firenze Marathon pays special attention to the race dedicated to disabled athletes. For the third consecutive year, Christian Giagnoni of Prato (team Aloye) completed the race first in 1h17’28”, just before Fabrizio Caselli from the Rolling Dreamers (1h18’30”) and adopted Florentine Pier Alberto Buccoliero of Asd Sportnolimits (1h21’20”). Alex Zanardi was present together with the team Equipe Obiettivo 3, who work to encourage disabled athletes to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games. The female race saw the success of Grazia Calosio from the Alove Team in 2h12’07”.

Here is the classification of the disabled athletes:


The 30th kilometer was dedicated to Nelson Mandela in celebration of his 100th birthday. The runners ran past the Mandela memorial and were serenaded by gospel group the Pilgrims. Mandela ran every Monday through Thursday for 45 minutes in place while being held, an activity that helped him to cope with his imprisonment. The Nelson Mandela Forum donated a copy of the sculpture “Hands Against Racism”, which represents a black hand intertwined with a what hand as a symbol of peace to the two winners of the race. The sculpture reminds us that, as Mandela said, “the best future is possible if we all lend a hand. Your hand, and my hand.” The prize was given by Andrea Vannucci on behalf of the Comune di Firenze. 


Lonah Chemtai Salpeter crossed the finish line of the 35th Asics Firenze Marathon practically jumping for joy in just 2h24’16”. Her race was extraordinary, making her the Firenze Marathon record holder (previously set at 2h28’15”), and the fourth fastest woman ever to run in Italy. Israeli of Kenyan origins, Lonah was the woman everyone was waiting for this year, and she didn’t disappoint. She started out easy and kept getting stronger, passing the 10km point in 34’07”, the half marathon point in 1h12’38”, 30km in 1h43’16”, 35km in 1h59’56”, 40km in 2h16’41” and finally increasing her speed as she ran through the center of Florence to Piazza San Giovanni. European 10,000-meter champion, a title which she won in Berlin this year, in the marathon her personal best had been 2h40’16”, also in Berlin, in 2016. “I’m really, really happy with my performance. Florence is amazing, with so many fans cheering me on throughout the race. Now, in the future, I want to improve my record in the half marathon, and then become the best. Number one.” 

Following her throughout the race in the rain was her trainer, Renato Canova: “Lonah grew up in Eldoret before moving to Israel to work in the Kenyan embassy. She met her husband there and became an Israeli national,” he explained. “She has been a professional athlete since 2017 when I started to work with her. She is extremely talented. In her future, I see the Boston Marathon, as well as a candidacy for the Tokyo Olympics which is looking very positive. In July, she was training at high altitudes in Italy (Sestriere) where I believe she built up her strength to win the European championships and this marathon.” Rounding out the podium with Salpeter were Kenyan Caroline Chepwony (2h30’46”) and Rwandan Clementine Mukandanga (2h30’59”).

The men’s race was also exciting, with the young 21-year-old Abdi Ali Gelelchu of Bahrain taking the win in just 2h11’32”. A novice to the marathon distance, he has a 1h03’42” half marathon under his belt, which he completed in the United States. The Asics Firenze Marathon is his first, and he completed it with great success. Behind him was Moroccan Hicham Boufars in 2h12’16” and Kenyan Gilbert Kirwa in 2h13’08”. Gelelchu was 8 minutes behind the leaders of the group at the half marathon point, which he passed in 1h05’13”. He took over the lead around the 30km point, with a decisive attack at km 35 and 40 when he changed his pace and distanced himself from the Moroccan Boufars who was ahead by a few seconds. His effort was rewarding and by km 40 he had a 19 second advantage, which would grow to nearly a minute in the final two kilometers. The first Italian was Ahmed Nasef, as expected, who crossed the finish-line in eighth place with a time of 2h23’19”.


The Asics Firenze Marathon 2018 is valid for the Italian banking and insurance championships, with 240 participants.

All information pertaining to the event is available on Facebook (on the Firenze Marathon fanpage), and on the official website,

Here is the fotogallery:

Get ready for race edition 36, which will be held on November 24, 2019.

News regarding the final number of finishers will be available shortly. 

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