From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu Oct 08 2009 - 11:17:26 EDT
International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF)
Thursday, 08 October 2009
MEN’s RACE PREVIEW - World Half Marathon, Birmingham 2009
Birmingham, UK - Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea is the favourite to win the
global road running title for a fourth consecutive year at the IAAF /
EDF Energy World Half Marathon Championships which take place in
Birmingham on Sunday 11 October 2009.
Tadese took the first of his victories in 2007 over the 20km distance at
what was then the briefly (for two years) renamed the World Road Running
Championships. A year later he won over the half marathon setting his
personal best of 58:59 which today is the seventh quickest run of all
time on courses applicable for record purposes.
Eritrea’s first ever global champion in any sport went to Rio de Janeiro
last year and stomped on the hopes of his opponents with a superb solo
run to record his third successive victory and collect another pay
cheque of US$30,000. That sum is the winning prize at these annual
championships, part of an overall US$245,000 purse available for the top
six individuals and teams across the men’s and women’s races.
The 27-year-old Tadese might be seeking his fourth consecutive gold in
this event when he takes to the streets of Birmingham on Sunday but he
is already a four-time World champion having won the 2007 World Cross
Country Championships title as well.
By not finishing his debut marathon in London this spring Tadese cast a
slight shadow on his 2009 season but after his World Championships
silver medal over 10,000m (26:50.12) in Berlin behind Kenenisa Bekele,
anyone who imagines that Tadese, who is also this year’s World Cross
Country bronze medallist, is not the firm favourite for gold in
Birmingham is seriously deluding themselves.
Tadese led home his country to team silver in Rio de Janeiro but of his
four compatriots last time only Teame Yemane who finished 35th in 2008
runs this weekend. However, it would be a surprise if the Eritrean team
who have finished runners-up for the last four years did not do so again
in Birmingham especially as Ethiopia who last won in 2005 has fielded a
relatively low key team, and Qatar, the bronze medallists in Rio, have
not entered any runners at all!
Kitwara leads all new Kenyan squad
Tadese, and Eritrea as a whole, face the might of the Kenyan delegation
which is a totally new line-up from the squad that took gold last year.
While they are without the world’s fastest runner of this year, Patrick
Makau, who was individual silver medallist in the last two editions,
Kenya have still lined-up a formidable team led by Sammy Kitwara, the
winner of the Rotterdam Half Marathon in a PB of 58:58, the second
fastest time of 2009.
Another three of the Kenyans entered also have personal bests of
sub-60mins. Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich is the third fastest man in the
world this year (58:59), and he is joined by Bernard Kiprop Kipyego
(59:10) and Wilson Kwambai Chebet (59:15).
Kipyego is a real newcomer taking a magnificent 59:34 debut win at the
distance at this year’s Berlin Half Marathon and then a fourth place
finish behind Kitwara in Rotterdam, the 59:10 he recorded there making
him the sixth fastest in the world in 2009.
Dos Santos approaching best shape?
Aside Tadese, of the top-8 finishers in Rio the only runner to return
this year is Brazil’s two-time New York Marathon champion Marilson dos
Santos. The 32-year-old who was seventh in the 2007 edition in Udine in
a personal best of 59:33, was 16th at the Berlin World Championships
over the full distance and in his build-up to a title defence in New
York should be approaching his best shape.
Mekonnen, a blast from the past
If Ethiopia is going to mount a serious challenge then it should come
from Tilahun Regassa who is only 19-years-old and has a personal best of
59:36 (2008), and from Dereje Tesfaye whose 1:00:02 was set when coming
third in The Hague this spring, and he was also recently third in
Glasgow too (1:01:44; 6 Sep).
And there is a blast from the past with the reappearance of Hailu
Mekonnen on the international stage. Now 29 years old, Ethiopia’s former
winner of two World Cross Country short course medals (1999 and 2002)
has a personal best for 1500m of 3:33.14, and in his move up to the
longer distances finished just ahead of Tesfaye in Glasgow in 1:01:29.
Tanzania’s squad led by 2003 and 2004 silver medallist Fabiano Joseph
Naasi (PB 59:56) will be in the hunt for team medals, having last been
on the podium in 2003 when they took the team title. Uganda, another
team to have tasted success, bronze in 2004, will be led by stalwart
Martin Toroitich who was 13th in that year.
Japan's Atsushi Sato, a 2:07 marathoner, who with a 1:00:25 PB is the
national record holder for the half marathon is another experienced
competitor to watch. Sato, who has a quickest this year of 1:01:29, has
run in the World Half Marathon Championships twice before, in 2002 and
2007, finishing eighth and ninth, respectively.
Ritzenhein, the dark horse?
Off the radar at the moment in terms of his personal best at the half
marathon is USA’s Dathan Ritzenhein, the sixth place finisher at 10,000m
at the World Championships in Berlin. The 26-year-old was the surprise
of the night on the track over 5000m at this year’s ÅF Golden League
meeting in Zürich. There he ran 12:56.27 to finally wipe away the long
standing Area record of compatriot Bob Kennedy (12:58.21) set in Zurich
on 14 August 1996. Before the race Ritzenhein’s personal best had been
13:16.06, and he is acknowledged to be a much better road racer and so
his 1:01:25 personal best from 2006 is surely in for major revision this
Finally, hosts Britain will be relying on the experienced Andrew
Lemoncello (1:05:17) for their best showing though their fastest entrant
is Philip Wicks (1:02:51).
Chris Turner for the IAAF
ll-lnd.jpg> Individual winner Zersenay Tadese led Eritrea to silver in
the team event (Getty Images)
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