Virginia Beach, USA19yearold Abebu Gelan led an Ethiopian sweep of the women’s race at the ninth annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach (6). Countrywomen Tiki Gelana and Meseret Mengistu finished second and third. The men’s race was taken by William Chebor of Kenya.
Defending women’s champion Edith Masai was hit by a hamstring pull in the first mile, forcing her to jog, rather than race the 13.1-mile distance.
The elite women started 15 minutes ahead of the men and the 20,000 regular runners in front of the Virginia Beach Convention Center on 19th Street. Even under near ideal conditions, the women began conservatively with a 6:00 first mile. They formed up into a nine-woman lead pack after a 5:42 second mile, with all three Ethiopians joined by the four Japanese, 2006 & 2007 champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya and Daniela Cirlan of Romania.
Having passed 10k in 35:35, the lead pack now down to six stayed together until the final sprint up the famed oceanfront boardwalk when Gelan edged away for the win in 1:13:43, followed by Gelana and Mengistu. The Japanese duo of Hiroko Miyauchi and Yumi Hirata finished closely behind in fourth and fifth.
The men led by Ethiopia's Zenbaba Yigeze and Feyisa Lilesa hit 4:41 for mile one, then strung together five consecutive mid-4:30 miles, putting the 2005 course record of 1:00:42 in jeopardy. At mile four the race turned into a two man dual, with Lilesa, the 19-year-old from Ethiopia joined by Chebor, who earlier this year won the Azkoitia Half Marathon in Spain. Each tried unsuccessfully to drop the other in a series of punishing surges as the route turned to the backside of the course from miles five through nine.
The men’s competition finally broke apart as the course looped back along General Booth Boulevard just past nine miles, when for maybe the tenth time in the race Chebor surged ahead, and this time Lilesa could not cover the move.
“The course was very nice, I like the Rock ‘n’ Roll,” said Chebor, who “All the other runners on the course were cheering and it made me go.”
With victory assured, Chebor managed his lead to the finish line, with a time of 1:01:29 Lilesa followed in 1:02:15, with Yigeze in third in 1:03:24.
Chebor trains with 2002 Virginia Beach Champion and former marathon world record holder Paul Tergat. Chebor also was coming off his debut marathon in Australia this July, a 2:11 victory at the Gold Coast Marathon.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon will celebrate its tenth anniversary in Virginia Beach on September 5, 2010.
Organisers for the IAAF
1. William Chebor, 26, Kenya, 1:01:29
2. Feyisa Lilesa, 19, Ethiopia, 1:02:15
3. Zembaba Yigezu, 26, Ethiopia, 1:03:24
4. Samuel Ndereba, 32, Kenya, 1:03:50
5. Noritaka Fijiyama, 25, Japan, 1:03:50
1. Abebu Gelan, 19, Ethiopia, 1:13:43
2. Tiki Gelana, 29, Ethiopia, 1:13:45
3. Meseret Mengistu, 19, Ethiopia, 1:13:46
4. Hiroko Miyauchi, 26, Japan, 1:13:52
5. Yumi Hirata, 28, Japan, 1:13:56