After an impressive run at the Helsinki World Championships, Mexico's Madai Perez aims to achieve the best performance by a Latin American woman in the history of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, whose 14th and final edition will be held this Saturday 1 October in Edmonton, Canada. In their place next year the first IAAF World Running Championships will be inaugurated in Debrecen, Hungary.
Springboard to international career
Perez, a tiny 25-year old runner from the central Mexican state of Txalcala improved her marathon best to 2:26:50 to finish a respectable 11th place in the Finnish capital last month.
"I have not had much time to recover from the World Championship Marathon,” confirmed Perez. “I have based my training on strengthening my muscles and intensity, short intervals and short uphill runs. I will not run any other marathons this year. I see Edmonton as a springboard in my international career, hoping to break the 70-minute barrier.”
“She has great chances of finishing in the top ten", commented her coach German Silva, one of the best Mexican long distance runners of all time. Silva won Mexico's only individual medal in the World Half Marathon history, when second in Oslo in 1994. The men's squad also won the team silver that year. Maricarmen Diaz was 19th in Montbeliard-Belford'95, the country's best placing by a woman.
14th position best so far
Mexico hosted the 9th IAAF World Half Marathon Champs in Veracruz, where Brazil's Selma dos Reis was 14th, the best position by a Latin American female athlete in the event so far. In the team's race, the Mexican women’s squad was eighth.
Perez owns a personal half marathon best of 1:10:55 hours, run during the 2004 New York Marathon, when she faded to ninth in 2:29:57. In Helsinki, she completed the first half in 1:11:53.
Global medal dream
The 1.57m tall athlete won the 2003 Monterrey 21k in 1:11:51, before making her marathon debut in Chicago with a 2:31:34-hour effort.
In 2004, she was second at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2:27:08, a time which made her the second fastest Latin American marathoner ever-only slower than her country woman Adriana Fernandez (2:24:06 in 1999 ). She also dominated the three local half marathons she entered, averaging 1:12-1:13 hours.
However, she was not named for the Olympic team, but the Rotterdam clocking was enough to qualify her for Helsinki, where she produced a brave run among the world's finest long distance runners.
"It is not an impossible to dream of an Olympic or World Championships medal. She is very talented and now needs more economic support so she would not have to run many road races to make a living", added Silva, who won the New York Marathon in 1993 and 1994.
He believes his pupil can perform well in Edmonton, but "there is no pressure as our ultimate goal is the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008."
"She will work on strengthening and improving her speed before trying to break her marathon PB next spring,” Silva stated. She proved her speed with a 9:17.63 win at the 3000m in Hermosillo, on 21 May.
Perez, is the first Mexican woman to run at the Half Marathon Worlds since 2000, and she will be accompanied to Edmonton by her husband, a 64 minute runner who will also represent Mexico at the Championships.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF