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Kenyan runner drops out of Hangzhou Marathon while winning

The marathon had the coldest conditions in its 36-year history

Hangzhou Marathon Photo by: Hangzhou Marathon/Weibo

A Chinese marathoner was shocked as he crossed the finish line at the 2023 Hangzhou Marathon in China on Sunday, discovering that he won the race after the Kenyan runner, who was in the lead, dropped out due to hypothermia at 25K.

Wang Hongwei of Zhengzhou, China, won the race in 2:15:03, in a sprint finish ahead of former Hangzhou Marathon champion Su Guoxiong and Ethiopia’s Belete Mekonen. Hongwei told local reporters he was in disbelief after thinking he was in second place until late in the race.

The Kenyan runner (bib S00006), who had a lead of about a kilometre around the halfway mark, began experiencing symptoms of hypothermia. Unfortunately, by the 25-kilometre point, he collapsed near Hangzhou’s Xixing Bridge, needing immediate medical attention, which led to his withdrawal.

The race witnessed the coldest conditions in its 36-year history, with temperatures reaching -1 C at 7:30 a.m., significantly lower than the seasonal average temperature of 8 C in Hangzhou at this time of year. The marathon was originally scheduled for Nov. 19, but was postponed by a month due to course construction.

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Hongwei, participating in only the third marathon of his career, broke the tape in a surprise win in sub-zero temperatures. Remarkably, this was his third marathon in the last three months, with previous races in Beijing and Hengshui in September and October. Hongwei holds a personal best of 2:12:39 from the 2023 Beijing Marathon, where he finished 11th overall.

2023 Hangzhou Marathon
Photo: Hangzhou Marathon/Weibo

The Hangzhou Marathon, recognized as one of 23 World Athletics Gold Label road races, attracted a massive field of 36,000 participants. The event comprised 20,000 participants for the marathon, 12,000 for the half marathon, and 4,000 for the fun run, making it a significant race on the global and Chinese domestic marathon calendar.

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