What is probably the best field ever assembled in the history of the event will be on the start line for the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon on 5 April, including five men who have gone under the hour for the distance, announced the IAAF Gold Label Road Race organisers on Monday (24).
The course record-holder, the 22-year-old Ethiopian Atsedu Tsegay, will have Kenya’s Philemon Limo, the former holder of that distinction, among his rivals.
Tsegay’s time of 58:47 set in Prague two years ago is currently the fifth fastest ever erformance on a record eligible course while Limo’s 2010 win in 59:30 was also world class.
“We’ve twice had winning times under the magical barrier of the hour in Prague,” said Jana Moberly, the elite race co-ordinator. "First, it was thanks to Philemon Limo, then Atsedu Tsegay ran even faster. Now they will be racing each other and I hope that we’ll have a sub-60 minute performance for the third time."
Apart from Tsegay and Limo, there are half a dozen athletes who have high hopes of being in contention.
Three of them have already run under an hour: Ethiopia’s Hunegnaw Mesfin has excellent form this year, finishing second in the Rome-Ostia half marathon recently in a personal best of 59:39.
Coincidentally, Kenya’s Peter Kirui has exactly the same lifetime best, achieved when he won the New York title with a course record two years ago.
Completing this trio, his fellow Kenyan Evans Barkowet Kiplagat has a best of 59:56 from the Lille half marathon in 2009. These are by no means the only competitors to take into consideration for the men’s race.
Two more Kenyans, Henry Kiplagat and Nicholas Kipkemboi, have proven records on the road.
Kiplagat was the runner-up in Prague with 1:00:01 two years ago and Kipkemboi has clocked 1:00:15.
Zimbabwe’s Cuthbert Nyasango is also one to watch. He finished seventh in the London 2012 Olympic Games marathon and he has a half marathon best of 1:00:26.
A strong women’s field has also been assembled for the race in the Czech capital. Seven runners have broken 69 minutes for the distance and Kenya leads the way: Joyce Chepkirui is the fastest with 1:07:03, thanks to what was then a course record in Prague in 2012, a standard her compatriot Gladys Cherono improved with 1:06:48 last year.
Others likely to mount a strong challenge include the reigning world cross-country champion, Kenya’s Emily Chebet, whose best of 1:08:20 makes her a prime contender as well.
The 2011 New York Marathon champion, Ethiopia’s Firehiwot Dado, should also come into the reckoning with her best of 1:08:35.
Others who have broken the 69-minute barrier are the Ethiopian quartet of Abebu Gelan (1:07:57), Wude Ayalew (1:07:58), Genet Getaneh (1:08:18) and Waganesh Mekasha (1:08:48).
However, a debutant might even steal the show since Kenya’s Esther Chemtai has a handy 10km best of 31:33.
Organisers for the IAAF