Competing in ideal running conditions, Gilbert Okari of Kenya broke away from the lead pack at mile nine and cruised to victory at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in San Jose yesterday (5).
On the women’s side, Yuri Kano of Japan took a sizeable lead after mile 11 on the way to her victory. Both winners were clearly the elite of their fields, distancing themselves from their competitors over the final third of the race.
Okari, 30, who made his San Jose debut running in only his second half marathon, finished in 1:01:46, ahead of Moroccan Ridouane Harroufi who finished second with 1:01:57.
A strong men’s field promised tough competition. American’s Josh Rohatinsky, 26, and Adam Goucher, 33, pushed the pace for the first three miles. The lead pack of eleven runners competed to the hit the 10k mark in stride at 29:16.
Entering the final four miles to the finish, the men’s lead pack began to thin out as the pace picked up dramatically and Okari began to pull away, gradually dropping American Rohatinsky.
“We expected the pack to go out 4:40, and when it didn’t, Adam and I pushed the lead,” said Rohatinsky, who finished sixth overall as the top American. “It’s somewhat disappointing as I feel than I’m in shape to run a 62:00. However, the course was great - really flat with lots of shade. I look forward to returning next year.”
A relative newcomer to long distance running, Okari was a late addition to the elite athlete field.
“I’m very happy to be back running and win my first half marathon,” said Okari, who has been injured for most of the past two years. “I changed my pace after the 10k mark and had plenty of energy the last few miles.”
“In the future I want to concentrate on long distances and run more half marathons,” added Okari, who will run another half marathon next Sunday in Boston and says he will hopes to transition to running only the full marathon distance in the next year.
In the women’s race, a lead pack of three ran together throughout, taking turns with the lead. Kano took the win in 1:10:03. Azalech Masresha of Ethiopia finished second with a time of 1:10:36. Kenyan Ann Kosgei took third in 1:11:53.
Sally Meyerhoff, USA, finished forth and was the first American women to finish in 1:12:52. “I’m very happy with my performance. I just ran an 8k in Ohio, and my fitness is coming along really well,” said Meyerhoff. “I feel really good and tried to run a smart race today.”
The San Jose half marathon course started in downtown San Jose, ran through Japantown and the beautiful Rose Garden neighbourhood, and finished at Plaza de Cesar Chavez.
Dan Cruz for the IAAF
1. Gilbert Okari, 30, Kenya, 1:01:46
2. Ridouane Harroufi, 27, Morocco, 1:01:57
3. Moses Kigen, 25, Kenya, 1:01:58
4. McDonald Ondara, 24, Kenya, 1:02:01
5. Charles Munyeki, 22, Kenya, 1:02:15
1. Yuri Kano, 29, Japan, 1:10:03
2. Azalech Masresha, 20, Ethiopia, 1:10:36
3. Ann Kosgei, 28, Kenya, 1:11:53
4. Sally Meyerhoff, 24, USA, 1:12:52
5. Jane Gakunyi, 29, Kenya, 1:12:57