On an unusually warm morning in Sydney, Australia, Olympic marathoner Othmane El Goumri of Morocco took the victory at the Sydney Marathon in 2:08:20, defying an earthquake a few days earlier that had threatened to derail his participation.
— Zachary Gates (@_zacharygates) September 16, 2023
The week before the race, a catastrophic 6.8 magnitude earthquake had struck rural villages in the Atlas Mountains north of Marrakesh, Morocco. The earthquake had left devastation in its wake, affecting the lives of thousands and rendering many homeless.
The toll on El Goumri was personal. He had relatives directly impacted by the earthquake, and the weight of the tragedy bore heavily upon him. Initially, doubts had swirled about whether he could summon the emotional strength to compete in a marathon so far from his homeland, particularly in light of the suffering his people were enduring.
El Goumri wore a black armband that symbolized solidarity and paid tribute to the 2,900 victims of the earthquake. “I have loved ones affected by the earthquake,” voiced an emotional El Goumri to The Sydney Morning Herald post-race. “I did not think I would come to Sydney, but thank Allah, at the last minute, I decided to come.”
The 31-year-old crossed the finish line in two hours, eight minutes and 20 seconds to win his first marathon since 2019 (Dublin). In the 2020 Olympic marathon, El Goumri finished ninth in 2:11:58, returning to the elite stage after serving a two-year athlete biological passport (ABP) suspension from 2016 to 2018.
In the women’s race, Betsy Saina, a Kenyan-born American marathoner, took the victory with a time of 2:26:47. She successfully fended off a late challenge from Ethiopian runner Rahma Tusa Chota, winning by a mere six seconds. Gladys Chesir Kiptagelai of Kenya was third in a time of 2:28:41.
Canadain Paralympian and 2012 Boston Marathon champion Josh Cassidy won the men’s wheelchair event, with Australia’s Madison de Rozario winning the women’s race.
Temperatures reached 30 C on the course Sunday, with a spokesperson for NSW Ambulance saying they had provided medical assistance to 40 people, related to heat exhaustion. “Twenty-six patients were transported to hospital via ambulance, with seven people in a serious condition,” they said in a statement.
This year saw more than 17,000 participants run the Sydney Marathon, which takes in some of the city’s most famous landmarks, including crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and finishing at the Sydney Opera House. The marathon is in the second year of a three-year candidacy in its attempt to become the seventh Abbott World Marathon Major, alongside races in New York, Boston, Chicago, London, Tokyo and Berlin.