Zersenay Tadese advertised that he intends to attack his own world record on 58:23 in the Hervis Prague Half Marathon on Saturday, when speaking at a press conference for the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Thursday (4).
The 31 year-old Eritrean established the current global mark of 58:23 in Lisbon three years ago.
“I am well prepared for this race,” said Tadese. “I will try to break the world record. But the weather could be decisive.” Current forecasts suggest a temperature of around five degrees Celsius, which may be a fraction too cool for a very fast race.
He completed the first part of his preparations in Madrid where he has a second home but for the past five weeks he has been training at high altitude in Asmara, the Eritrean capital.
If any extra incentive were needed, the organisers of the 15th edition of the Hervis Prague Half Marathon have also offered a €100,000 World record bonus.
This is the second occasion that organisers of one of the best quality Half Marathons in the world have offered a six figure bonus.
“Last year, no one believed that a world record could be possible in Prague; but then we got a winning time of 58:47 despite some wind, which remained the fastest in the world in 2012. Now people do believe that even a world record is possible in Prague,” explained Jana Moberly, the elite athletes coordinator.
Tadese is, of course, the fastest man in the field but he will certainly not be without challengers in the Czech capital.
Kenya’s Philemon Limo is optimistic of beating the five-time IAAF World Half Marathon Champion, who also has an IAAF World Cross Country Championships gold medal to his name.
He established a Prague course record and personal best of 59:30 two years ago. “I am inspired to run against the world record holder. But I don’t fear him. I want to break my personal best on Saturday,” said the 27 year-old Limo.
“Everything is possible in Prague,” he added.
Limo said he had trained very hard so that it he can battle with Tadese and improve on his personal best.
“Once in a week we do a training session back in Kenya with around 400 athletes. We call it ’The End of the Road’ because it leads to the end of the tarmac.
It lasts about 70 minutes, gets faster and faster and includes great athletes like Wilson Kipsang and Sammy Kitwara. When you are among the leaders there you will win your next big race. I was in the leading group (recently) so that makes me optimistic that I can beat Tadese,” explained Limo.
Medhin Half Marahon debut
Three more athletes will be involved on Saturday with personal bests of below 60 minutes: the Kenyan pair of Pius Maiyo and Daniel Chebii, who have bests of 59:25 and 59:49, as well as Tadese’s fellow Eritrean and training partner Yonas Kifle, who has run 59:30.
Prague will also mark the debut of another Eritrean, Teklemariam Medhin, another friend of Tadese.
The Eritrean has shown great form recently, taking the bronze medal at the World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz last month.
The women’s race will see the return of Kenya’s Gladys Cherono. In 2012 she had established her personal best of 68:18 with a third place finish in the Czech capital.
“I want to run as fast or better as last year if the weather will not be too cold,” said Cherono, who won both the 5000m and 10000m titles at the 2012 African Championships.
Cherono plans to do a track season in the summer. “I will try to qualify at 10000m for the World Championships in Moscow,” she added.
She is the second fastest in the field of the Hervis Prague Half Marathon behind Worknesh Degefa. The Ethiopian has a best of 67:49, which she ran in the Rome-Ostia race last month.
There is a third runner in the race on Saturday who boasts a sub-69 minutes lifetime best: Kenya’s Isabella Ochichi.
Now 33, Ochichi has chosen Prague for her international comeback. Her best of 68:38 dates back 12 years and the Kenyan has not raced at an international level since 2006.
“Isabella Ochichi is a very professional athlete, so this is a serious comeback,” said Zane Branson, the manager of the 2004 Olympic 5,000m silver medallist from 2004, adding that she has been training for Saturday’s race with the group of World marathon record holder Patrick Makau in Ngong.
A record number of 12,500 runners have entered the Hervis Prague Half Marathon.
Jorg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF