11 October 2009
Organisers of the IAAF/EDF Energy World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham today saw the rewards of their efforts appropriately rewarded with championship records in both races. No sooner had Mary Keitany, from Kenya, run the fastest women’s time in the event’s history (see separate report) than Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese followed suit in the men’s race.
Tadese ran solo throughout the second half of the race after burning off his early challengers to win in 59:35. Thus he erased the mark of 59:56 which he held jointly with Kenya’s Shem Kororia*. It says much for the design of the course, even if it was hilly in parts with twists and turns, that the record was achieved in the face of difficult winds on wet road surfaces.
On a record-breaking day, Tadese also became the first athlete of either sex to win a fourth world road racing title. It was his fourth in succession after he took his first over 20km in 2006 and his second and third over the half marathon distance in 2007 and 2008.
This has been a phenomenal year for Tadese who, at 27, has become only the second athlete, after Kenya’s Paul Tergat, to win medals at World Championships on three different surfaces in one year. Even the great Haile Gebrselassie failed in that regard while his fellow Ethiopian and similarly great, Kenenisa Bekele, has yet to tackle the roads in a championship.
Tadese’s victory by 25 seconds today follows his bronze medal in the World Cross Country Championships, in Amman, Jordan, in March and his silver over 10,000m at the track and field World Championships, in Berlin, in August. The one blip in his year came with his failure to finish in his marathon debut at the Flora London Marathon, in April, after illness interrupted his training following the World Cross Country.
Bernard Kiprop Kipyego, from Kenya, was second (59:59) while Dathan Ritzenhein, from the United States, became the first non African-born winner of a medal in the men’s race since Stefano Baldini, from *Italy, took the title in 1996. Ritzenhein, watched by his coach, former three-time winner of the New York City Marathon, Alberto Salazar, was in contention for silver with 100m to go, when Kipyego gained the small advantage he needed to hold off the American, who timed 1:00.00.
The only former champion in the race, Fabiano Joseph Naasi, from Tanzania, who took the title in 2005, had to settle for 16th place, just 10 spots ahead of the leading Briton, Andrew Lemoncello, who was 26th in a personal best 1:03.03. “It’s an official PB, which is great, but the time wasn’t my focus, it was about performance” Lemoncello said.
Lemoncelllo led home a British squad which placed 14th and was completed by Mark Miles in 46th (1:04.21), Philip Wicks in 60th (1:05.18), Andrew Jones in 63rd (1:05.37) and Gareth Raven in 75th (1:06.51).
“It was good – the last couple of miles were tough. It was hillier than I thought. All three of us (my US training partners) thought we wouldn’t start hard running until around 8km, we stayed together and stayed relaxed then we hit the hill and it started getting tough. I really started to feel it about 13km. After coming down the hill it was really about hanging onto the group.
“I’ve definitely benefited from having my coach and training partners here. I was working out there with Carlson, he finished about ten seconds in front of me and we were working together. We had a big group around us and we shared the lead of the group.
“If I can run 63 on a course like that I think I can confidently go through half way at London Marathon in 65.”
Mark Miles said:
“I felt great, I felt really good, the second half I felt very, very strong, I thought I was going to run a big PB but was outside by 10 seconds. The support on the streets was fantastic, being in my home city it was brilliant. I couldn’t ask for any more.
“Gemma (wife) and I are lucky knowing the city and running in the Birmingham, area quite a lot. I had a good understanding of the course and that helped, knowing where the inclines were.”
Phil Wicks said:
I finished behind Mark, I felt ok, I had a good start then I hit a bad patch around 7/8km then came back again. I went through half way fine but it was spread out by then and it was hard. I wanted to go through 10k in around 30, so that was ok. The course was good, but I struggled a bit in the second half. I’m obviously happy to score for the team.”
Kenya took a fourth successive world road racing team title and their 12th in total (including two years, in 2006 and 2007, when the event was known as the World Road Running Championships). With Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich fourth, in 1:00.08, and Wilson Chebet sixth, in 1:00.59, they recorded a cumulative time of 3:01.06 in the three-to-score team competition. Eritrea were second (3:02.39) and Ethiopia third (3:06.42).
*Zersenay Tadese ran 58:59 for the half marathon distance in 2007 when the event was officially known as the World Road Running Championships and not the World Half Marathon Championships.