MonteCarloThe 14th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships will take place on 1 October in the Canadian city of Edmonton, which also hosted in 2001 IAAF World Championships in Athletics. We are promised two fast, exciting contests this Saturday in William Hawrelak Park in which the course starts and finishes. Many of the world’s best half marathon distance exponents will be racing with US$245,000 in prize money on offer.
We now examine the merits of some of the leading players in the women’s race…
WOMEN – Tulu in the vanguard
One of this weekend’s competitors in particular will no doubt be especially happy to return to the city. Ethiopian Derartu Tulu, 33, the double Olympic 10,000m champion, sped to a World Championship victory over that same track distance in Edmonton’01, nipping compatriot Berhane Adere by just 0.04 of a second to take the gold in 31:48.81. It was the following spring, on 5 May 2002, in Brussels, that Adere was to put that near miss behind her with a marvellous win in the 11th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. Tulu by comparison has not won another global title since that Edmonton win, and will be eager to re-enhance her reputation especially on the roads given that her career focus has moved away from the track to marathon running, a discipline at which she came 4th in last month’s World Championships in Helsinki in a personal best (PB) of 2:23:30.
Tulu, finished 15th in the 1999 World Half Marathon, her only previous outing at these Championships, and she holds a personal best of 68:26 from way back in 1995. However, that mark is deceptive, as on the downhill course in Lisbon she clocked 67:03 in 2001, which is her and Ethiopia’s absolute fastest ever clocking.
If we need an up-to-date form guide then her run less than a fortnight ago in the Great North Run in Newcatle, England, should say it all. Tulu took a fine win on the slightly down-hill course, running 67:33 in warm conditions to beat a classy field which included Adere.
Adere, 32, who was the silver medallist in 2003, was originally also in the Ethiopian squad for Edmonton but she recently withdrew, reportedly wanting to give a chance to younger runners.
Chepkemei seeks to change silver into gold
But Adere’s absence by no means leaves Tulu unchallenged, far from it. Opposing her title ambitions in Edmonton will be Susan Chepkemei of Kenya, who has three times finished with a silver medal in the World Half Marathon (2000 – 2002). The 30-year-old was the winner of the 2001 Lisbon race ahead of Tulu’s quickest time in an absolute African fastest of 65:44. Her PB on a ‘flat’ course is 67:36 which she produced when taking the World silver in Bristol in 2001. In her last appearance at these Championships, Chepkemei was 8th (70:35) in 2003. She has raced only once over the half marathon so far this year, again winning the spring Lisbon race in a time of 68:47.
Kiplagat – genuine title ambitions
Completing a trio of top-notch contenders this Saturday, we have a former Kenyan Lornah Kiplagat, now competing for The Netherlands, as a potential front runner out of the other 80+ runners who will be contesting the women’s crown on Saturday. We have already featured Kiplagat – click here for story – and she is certainly talking a good race at the moment. In her one previous outing at the World Half Marathon (in 1998), then wearing the vest of Kenya, she came 21st in a time of 72:09. But don’t let that create doubts about her pedigree. This year’s Rotterdam Marathon champion has all the credentials to take away the gold, with her absolute fastest also having come in the now legendary 2001 Lisbon Half Marathon. In that race she finished second to Chepkemei in 66:34, though her legitimate PB is the 66:56 time which she set in The Hague in 2000.
Don’t forget, Ominami, Kuma, Kosgei…
Of course, the gold medal contenders are not just restricted to these three names. It would be wise not to over look Japan’s team ambitions and the individual threat of their leading runner Hiromi Ominami, a 2:23 marathon runner with a PB for the half of 68:45 (2004). Then there are Tulu’s and Chepkemei’s chief compatriots, respectively Eyeruslem Kuma (71:07), last year’s 6th placer. and Salina Kosgei (70:03PB) , the Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion.
Tomescu heads the strong Romanian squad
Pressing the African born runners hard will be the ever strong Romanian team, which have taken 6 team titles over the past thirteen editions of the Championships. They will be led by last year’s bronze medallist Constantina Tomescu, who has a national record PB of 68:10 (2002). The 35-year-old has been in sparkling form this year at the marathon, taking second place in London in a national record of 2:22:50, and then the World bronze medal last month in Helsinki (2:23:19).
‘The Russians are coming…’
The other strongest European contingent will be the squad from Russia who are represented by two top-10 finishers from the 2004 Championships in New Delhi. Irina Timofeyeva (7th ) and Alina Ivanova (9th) along with all their teammates are vastly experienced, with the best record being held by Lidiya Grigoryeva was fourth in 2003.
Reigning World champion Sun Yingjie of China is preparing for October's National Games in China, and so will not take defend her title.
In all 35 nations will contest the women’s race.
Chris Turner for the IAAF