Tola's run also broke the 2:04:23 course record, which was run in 2012 in much more hospitable conditions. It was in the 50s that year; it's 72 in Dubai right now, at least 20 degrees warmer than ideal.
The weather, pace, and maybe a bizarre injury at the start knocked out Tola's countryman Kenenisa Bekele just over halfway through the race. After the race, Bekele's manager Jos Hermens told the broadcast said that Bekele was pushed from behind, fell, and injured his arm and calf right at the start of the race. Hermens said that on the broadcast that the gun went off at the start with no notice, which caused the crash.
But it was a breakout performance for the 25-year-old Tola, if it's possible to break out after winning an Olympic medal. Tola hadn't run a marathon since finishing fourth in Dubai in 2:06 in 2014. His focus on the track worked in 2016, as he ran 26:57 at the Prefontaine Classic and finished third in the 10K at the Olympics. His win is worth $200,000, and he missed a $50,000 bonus for breaking 2:04 by just ten seconds. Runner-up Mule Wasihun ran 2:06:46, and no one else broke 2:08.
Tola hung in the lead pack for the first half of the race, and between 25K and 30K, he and the rabbit broke away from the field. Rabbit Amos Kipruto dropped out just after 30K, and Tola was left with a one-minute lead that only grew.
With the hot conditions and hotter early pace, only six men broke 2:10.
In the women's race, Worknesh Degefa beat pre-race favorite Shure Demise, finishing in 2:22:35. Demise was 22 seconds behind in second place. It was Degefa's marathon debut. Like Tola, the 26-year-old won $200,000 for her efforts. Degefa's debut is the eleventh fastest marathon debut ever.
We'll have the full race video shortly.