The popular and quick Rome-Ostia Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Race, celebrates its 40th birthday with the new record of entries. No less than 13,500 runners will take to the streets from Via Cristoforo Colombo to the finish line near the beaches at Ostia on Sunday (2).
The men’s race will feature a partial re-match of last year’s Roma-Ostia race when Robert Chemosin finished second in 59:19 and just one second ahead of Simon Cheprot in a close and exciting race which saw their fellow Kenyan Wilson Kiprop win in a course record of 59:15, with both Chemosin and Cheprot setting personal bests.
Chemosin ran no less than six half marathons in 2013 but could not get within.g two-and-a-half minutes of that time in any of his other outings so it will be interesting to see how he performs 12 months after the best competitive run of his career.
In similar fashion, Cheprot's form tailed off during the rest of the year and he will be looking to get back to something close to his best in the famous Italian race which has been won by Kenyan men for 12 of the last 13 years.
The men’s line-up this year also features two more Kenyan runners with a sub-one hour bests: Titus Masai and Kiprop Limo, who have run 59:51 and 59:55 respectively. The Ethiopian challenge is led by Shami Abdulhai, who has a best of PB 1:00:44.
Russia’s Aleksey Reukov and Ukraine’s Olexandr Sitkovskyy will lead the European challenge.
Italy's Abdon Pamich, now 80, will take part in the race but walk the route as part of the celebrations to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his 1964 Olympic Games 50km race walk victory, which occurred on 18 October that year.
History beckons for Incerti?
History beckons for Incerti?
After the course was modified in 2011 to make it quicker, Kenya’s Florence Kiplagat sped to a women’s course record of 1:06:36 in 2012.
This year’s field doesn’t look likely to challenge that mark but Turkey’s long distance runner Elvan Abeylegesse, the double 2008 Olympic Games silver medallist in the 5000m and 10,000m, and former 5000m world record holder, will face strong field, not least the Kenyan pair of Sharon Cherop and Caroline Chepkwony.
Abeylegesse ran her half marathon personal best of 1:07:07 in 2010 when she won the RAK Half Marathon. However, after the birth of her daughter in 2011, she has not been in quite the same form since her return to the sport the following year and did not break 70 minutes in her two half marathons last year.
Sharon Cherop’s half marathon career best of 1:07:08 came in the 2011 New Delhi race but she showed good form last year when clocking 1:09:04, albeit in 11th place, at the RAK Half Marathon. Later in the year, she ran 2:22:28 for second place at the Berlin Mararthon in September.
Chepkwony’s credentials include a half marathon personal best of 1:08:36 in Berlin teo years ago and she won the Lubljana Marathon in 2013 with 2:27:27.
The Italian challenge is led by 2010 European Athletics Championships marathon winner Anna Incerti, who returned from maternity leave this year and finished runner-up in a solid 1:10:10 behind 2013 IAAF World Championships marathon silver medallist Valeria Straneo at the Verona Half Marathon two weeks ago.
Incerti has won the Roma-Ostia race twice before in 2009 and 2011, when she ran a few seconds outside 69 minutes on both occasions.
Curiously, despite it's long history, no man or woman has ever won the Rome-Ostia race more than twice and so Incerti has her chance of making a bit of local history on Sunday.
“The second place in Verona has given me confidence, especially because I had not run a half marathon for two years. My motivation has increased since the birth of my daughter Martina last May. I recover from training more easily now,” said Incerti.
“The line-up of African runners is impressive but I will run my own race. After the Roma-Ostia I will return home to prepare for the World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhaghen, which will be a stepping stone towards the European Athletics Championships in Zurich,” she added.
Incerti will represent a strong Italian team alongside Straneo, who clocked 1:09:45 in Verona, at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhaghen on 29 March.
Another former Italian winner, Rosaria Console, who won the Roma-Ostia in 2005 when she clocked what remains her personal best of 1:09:34, will line up on Sunday morning alongside Deborah Toniolo, who recently returned from maternity leave with 2:31:42 at the Osaka Marathon last January.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF