Zersenay Tadese, the dominant force in men’s half-marathon running for almost a decade, was finally run out of the medals here at the IAAF/AL-Bank World Half Marathon Championships as he finished fourth in a race won by Kenya’s Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor in 59:08, the world’s fastest time this year.
But the twist in the tale was that Tadese, after earning six consecutive silvers for Eritrea in the team event, finally got his hands on a team gold thanks to the additional efforts of Samuel Tsegay, who won the battle with Ethiopia’s Guye Adola to take silver in a personal best of 59:21, and Nguse Amlosom, fifth in 1:00:00. Adola earned bronze in a personal best of 59:21.
Kenya, team gold medallists on the past six occasions, had to settle for silver this time around, with bronze going to Ethiopia.
While much was made beforehand of the challenge the multiple Eritrean champion faced from Wilson Kiprop, who was returning to the event for the first time since winning the individual title in 2010, it was Kiprop’s colleague Kipsang who proved strongest on a day of bright sunshine and a welcome breeze.
Thus Tadese’s medal-winning sequence – five golds and a silver in the previous six runnings of this event – was brought to an end as he finished fourth in 59:38, faster than his winning times from 2008 and 2012. He also earned the distinction of a record ninth appearance at these championships.
The medal winners had effectively separated themselves by the 15km mark, with Kipsang driving ahead and Tsegay tracking him, a few metres ahead of the Ethiopian. At one point Tsegay strained round to try to gauge how far behind his famous fellow runner in the pale blue shirt was. But the gap was too much to make up, and Tsegay, whose previous best at these championships was a fifth place, concentrated on maximising his own performance.
The early lead had been taken by the Japanese through Kenta Murayama, Hiroto Inoue and Masato Kikuchi, but it was only a matter of time before the Kenyan, Ethiopian and Eritrean runners massed just behind them started to shape the main race.
By the five kilometres mark Tadese had moved into the lead, with his fellow Eritreans Tsegay and Amlosom running at his shoulder, with Moses Kibet of Uganda also showing well.
The Kenyans soon responded, however, and within another kilometre they had established themselves in the lead through Kipsang and Kiprop, with Tadese just a stride behind the latter in the centre of the leading group, and a rank of Ethiopian shirts also in contention.
At the 12km mark the leading group of six had broken clear – Tadese, Tsegay, Amlosom of Eritrea, running closely together, Kipsang and Kiprop, and Adola.
But as Kipsang continued to drive up the pace from the front, six soon became three, and the only remaining question was which order the three leaders would assume on the podium.
Tsegay eventually won the battle for silver with Adola and looked pleased enough as he crossed the line, skipping and punching the air with a broad grin on his face before turning to await his labouring compatriot, whom he briefly embraced.
Tadese, sweat beading on his brow and shoulders rolling with effort, came home in a time that was more than a minute slower than the world record of 58:23 he set in Lisbon four years ago. Kiprop finished a second behind Amlosom in sixth place, clocking 1:00:01.
The last time Tadese had finished outside the top three in a half marathon was as a 21-year-old, 11 years ago. His last defeat to a fellow Eritrean was back in 2002 at the World Half Marathon Championships in Brussels.
Eritrea’s team title brought Tadese’s medal tally at the World Half Marathon Championships to a record 13, six of them gold.
The silver and bronze medallists were not the only ones to break their personal bests on the flat and fast course around the city centre – 13 of the first 20 men home ran faster than they had ever done before.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF