more training, I think everything will come"
Sabrina Yohannes for IAAF
17 November 2000 - When it comes to the half-marathon, world silver medallist Phaustin Baha Sulle of Tanzania has two goals: the world title and the world best mark. But both are currently held by the newly-confirmed king of the event, Kenyas Paul Tergat, who became the only man to successfully defend his World Half Marathon Championship crown when he won in Veracruz on Sunday. "We cant beat Paul Tergat," said Baha Sulle, 18, after working, along with his team-mate Amnaay Zebedayo Bayo, to challenge the Kenyan there. "Maybe after two years," he added.
Baha Sulle has good reason to believe two years will give him enough time to realise his dreams. In the past one year, his career has soared, and he has consistently improved his position behind Tergat, going from 15th place at the 1999 championships where the Kenyan took his first title, to a finish just one second behind the champion last Sunday. The Tanzanian launched his campaign internationally in March with a gutsy performance at the Lisbon half-marathon, one week after finishing eighth in the junior race of the World Cross Country championships. The Lisbon race featured an attack by Tergat on his own world mark of 59 minutes and 17 seconds, and although the slightly downhill course prevented the time from gaining universal acceptance as a new standard, he did slash it by 11 seconds. Baha Sulle, meanwhile, placed fourth in 59:38, a new (also informal) best time for himself and his country.
"Ive been training very hard in Tanzania," said Baha Sulle, who logged six other international half-marathons under 1:02:50 this year, three of which he won. He honed his preparations for the World Championships with a victory at the October Great North Run in the U.K., the same race that gave Briton Paula Radcliffe the confidence to successfully target the womens world title. Going into the championships, Baha Sulle also believed he had a chance.
"I thought, maybe," he said, but he changed his mind somewhere along the course. "Tergat is very, very tough, not like me," he said. Given the hot, humid conditions and the competition, Baha Sulle was pleased with his 1:03:48 second place, but was disappointed that, with his medal, and Bayo placing seventh, his country didnt collect a team medal.
"Only two people came from Tanzania," he said. "I think Tanzania was number two from the teams, but we didnt have one more person." Both men train in Arusha, Tanzania, where Baha Sulle (who is also known as Faustin Baha) lives with his wife and infant son, not far from the Babati district where his parents, who are farmers, live. His running career took off with a road race, in which he was fourth over 15K in Dar-Es-Salaam in 1997. But, like the cross-country and 10,000-metre repeat world medallist Tergat, Baha Sulle has designs on other events, as well.
"I like everything: cross-country, road, track," he said, citing the ambitious targets he intends to chase while working on his long-term half-marathon goals. "I plan to beat the Tanzanian record for the marathon, or the 10,000 or 5,000," said Baha Sulle, who has less experience in those events, but hopes to remedy that soon. "I want to run a marathon next year," he said. "I will speak to my manager. I dont know where I will go, maybe London."
With Tergat having since declared his commitment to run London in April, if both men compete there, the race may prove to be another occasion where the young Tanzanian propels his career forward in pursuit of the Kenyan. Encounters between the two East Africans have already moved Baha Sulle closer to both of his half-marathon goals. The Veracruz championships left him one medal away from the title, and the Lisbon race that gave the 31-year-old Tergat the informal new world best, also gave Baha Sulle the same distinction among juniors.
"After more training, I think everything will come," he said