“I had to go and run alone because they were not running for me,” Lemma said about the pacesetters, who weren’t fast enough to help reach a target time of 2:06:35.
Despite fierce head winds on the final section, Lemma clocked the third-fastest time in the 32-year history of the event and comfortably beat second-placed Duncan Koech of Kenya by 4:43. Siraj Gena of Ethiopia was another 34 seconds back in third.
“I am very happy to win this marathon. I’ve come here for the first time,” Lemma said. “The people were very good. They said ‘hop, hop’ all the time and they pushed me to run harder.”
It was Lemma’s third marathon victory after winning in Carpi in 2012 and Warsaw the following year.
Getu Feleke of Ethiopia, who set a course record while winning here last year, quit the race after 50 minutes with an apparent right thigh injury.
Feleke was part of a leading group of five, which quickly reduced to three as Beraki Beyene of Eritrea fell behind shortly after Feleke pulled out.
Switzerland’s Maja Neuenschwander won a tight women’s race with the top five finishing within 41 seconds.
Neuenschwander timed 2:30:09 to beat Kenyans Agnes Mutune and Esther Chemtai by 10 and 23 seconds, respectively. Last year’s winner, Anna Hahner of Germany, was fifth in 2:30.50.
“It was a huge joy to run here,” Neuenschwander said. “I only started thinking about winning at the very end. The wind was the reason there were no real great finishing times.”
Before running solo for the last 10 kilometers, Neuenschwander led the race with 2011 and 2012 winner Fate Tola of Ethiopia. They opened up a half-minute gap after 21 kilometers before Tola fell off the pace.
Tola finished seventh in 2:34:43 in her first full-distance race since giving birth to a daughter 14 months ago.