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Italian road race season off to flying start with Bekele and Okayo

Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia leads the men's 10,000m final (Getty Images)Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia leads the men's 10,000m final (Getty Images) © Copyright

Last weekend the intense Italian road race calender featured Kenenisa Bekele’s victory at the 14th edition of the traditional Memorial Peppe Greco 10 km road race on the streets of Scicli, a small town in Southern Sicily.

The “double double” world cross country champion from Ethiopia, who also won his first world title on the track this summer over the 10000 metres and the bronze in the 5000 metres in Paris, followed in the footsteps of his predecessor Haile Gebrselassie, a four times winner in Scicli.

In the past editions this nice road race was highlighted by a fabulous head to head battle between Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat in 1998 with the twice 10,000 metres Olympic champion from Ethiopia pulling away from Tergat, who set a new World Best in the Berlin marathon on Sunday only in the final metres of the race.

In the 2003 competition Bekele lived up to the tradition of the Memorial Peppe Greco with a easy win in 28:50 after breaking away from the rest of the group at halfway. Only Robert Kipchumba managed to resist to Bekele’s attack and finished second with 28:52. Third was John Korir with 28:58.

Results of the Memorial Beppe Greco road race (10 km):
1 Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) 28:50;
2 Robert Kipchumba (Kenya) 28:52;
3 John Korir (Kenya) 28:58;
4 Bernard Barmasai (Kenya) 29:01;
5 Martin Sulle (Tanzania) 29:11

Okayo runs 1:07:23 At Udine Half Marathon

Margaret Okayo won the international Udine Half Marathon in Northern Italy on Sunday with the world seasonal best of 1:07:23. This clocking ranks her eighth in the all-time best over this distance.

Okayo, winner at the 2001 New York and the 2002 Boston marathons, also lowered her previous half marathon PB of 1:08:51 she ran on the same course two years ago, exactly one month before her triumph in the Big Apple.

This year Okayo clocked 33:29 at halfway, one minute faster than the Hungarian Aniko Kalovics and the Kenyan Margaret Atodonyang. The 27-year-old Kenyan slightly slowed in the second half, clocking 33:54 but scored a easy win over her compatriot Atodonyang (1:09:12) and Kalovics who also managed to dip under the 1:10 barrier with 1:09:48.

More proof of the fast Udine course was the result scored in the men’s race by James Kwambai of Kenya who ran the third best time in the world this season with 1:00:38 by beating his countrymen Simon Kiilu (1:01:34) and Joseph Ngeny (1:00:35). Kwambai built up his win by running the first half in 30:51 before a 29:47 negative split in the second part of the race.

Results of the Udine half marathon:
Men:
 1 James Kwambai (Kenya) 1:00:38;
2 Simon Kiilu (Kenya) 1:01:34;
3 Joseph Ngeny (Kenya) 1:01:35;
Women:
1 Margaret Okayo (Kenya) 1:07:23;
2 Margaret Atodonyang (Kenya) 1:09:12;
3 Aniko Kalovics (Hungary) 1:09:48