Hiruni bows out in tears at brutal Doha marathon | Sunday Observer

Hiruni bows out in tears at brutal Doha marathon

Hiruni Wijayaratne
Hiruni Wijayaratne

Hiruni Wijayaratne, Sri Lanka’s lone representative at the 17th IAAF World Athletic Championship had the heart of a lion, ran like a gazelle but her legs gave way in the brutal heat and humidity in the first ever midnight marathon in Doha yesterday.

She dropped out from the race just after 22km in the 42km marathon.

“This was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my athletic career. I am so sad and disappointed I could not overcome the heat today. I tried, tried so many times. There were so many Sri Lankans to support me. With tears in my eyes I didn’t want to give up. But my legs had other plans,” said a disconsolate Hiruni who was among 23 of the 68 starters who failed to finish, including all three Ethiopian entries.

Many women’s marathon runners were rushed for medical attention, their faces contorted in pain while other competitors hobbled off the track in the inaugural road race of Doha’s World Athletics Championships, according to reports.

“The hardest part about being an athlete is facing disappointment. I trained for months to be in Doha, fit and strong. I ran 3 PBs (personal bests) in three distances and won two national championships. Today was supposed to be my day but the world had other plans for me,” Hiruni wrote on her Facebook page.

“I don’t know if I am more sad or mad at the moment. A marathon should not be contested in 36 degrees and 80-plus humidity. When I went to the medical tent my core temp was almost 40 degrees. That’s insane,” stated Hiruni who qualified for the World meet after winning silver at the Dusseldorf Marathon clocking a Sri Lanka and South Asian record of 2:34.10.

Humidity of more than 73 percent and temperatures of almost 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) dogged the race, specially started at midnight to avoid peak heat.

“You see somebody down on the course and it’s just, extremely grounding and scary,” said Canada’s Lyndsay Tessier, 41, who was one of those to finish, coming in ninth. “That could be you in the next kilometre, the next 500 metres.”

“It was just really scary and intimidating and daunting. So that was enough to hold me back.”

The Championships’ organisers told race participants that the event’s timing could be changed if conditions proved prohibitive but ultimately pressed ahead with the original plan.

Almost all of the runners were saturated with sweat by the halfway point and most ran with bottles as some video cameras being used to film the race malfunctioned because of the conditions.

“Within 5KM into the race I was already cramping, sweating uncontrollably. As the race went on I kept pushing. Trying to pass someone, use the energy from the crowd, trying to move my legs. No such luck...,” stated Hiruni who aims to redeem herself at the South Asian Games (SAG) to be held in Kathmandu, Nepal in December.

“It’s done and over now. All I can do is look forward to the next opportunity to make Sri Lanka proud. It’s coming soon at SAG.. Massive thanks to the hundreds of Sri Lankan supporters who lined the streets tonight.

It was you who kept me going. 100% sure I had more fans than any other country! I lost the battle today. But the war is still going. Let’s keep fighting,” she stated after leaving hospital.

Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich powered through brutal heat and humidity to win gold when she took the tape after 2 hours 32 minutes and 43 seconds, crediting “training in a hot area” of her home country for helping her to tame the elements.