Athletes across 35 locations pushed themselves to the limit in the global charity run which raises money to help find a cure for spinal cord injury, and it proved to be a record-breaking day that included a first ever national champion in a wheelchair when Aron Anderson won in Sweden.
Ketema, who won the maiden edition last year, was again the last man standing, improving on his 78.57km performance of 2014 with a winning mark of 79.9km. As the Catcher Car finally passed him in St Polten, Austria, Ketema fell to the floor and kissed the tarmac in exhausted celebration.
Second was Chile’s César Andrés Díaz Hernández running in Santiago while Peru’s Remigio Quispe, who was second behind Ketema last year, was third after pacesetting with the Ethiopian in Austria for much of the race.
Watanabe, 27, won the women’s title after a dramatic finish which saw her and South Africa’s Riana van Niekerk both eclipse the 54.79km mark set by champion Elisa Molvik in Norway last year
Anderson became the first wheelchair athlete to win a national title when he was last to be caught in Kalmar-Oeland, Sweden after 64.82km.
The day proved a festival of colour and physical endeavour for the 101,280 registered athletes: the costumes on show varied from a pink fairy tutu in the United Kingdom to countless Ironman and Superman outfits.
The Catcher Car drivers played their part too with David Coulthard treating onlookers with some eye-watering stretching exercises before he climbed into his car, while multiple Olympic ski champion Aksel Lund Svindal had to do a spot of off-roading onto the grass to catch some of the runners in Stavanger, Norway.
1. Lemawork Ketema (ETH) km 79.9 (Venue AUT)
2. Cesar Hernandez (CHI) km 78.3 (Venue CHI)
3. Remigio Huaman (PER) km 78.2 (Venue AUT)
1. Yuko Watanabe (JPN) km 56.3 (Venue Japan)
2. Riana van Niekerk (RSA) km 55,2 (Venue RSA)
3. Nathalie Vasseur (FRA) km 52,2 (Venue USA, Fl)
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