Philadelphia, USAHistory was made at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon on Sunday, not once but twice , as Matthew Kisorio of Kenya and Kim Smith of New Zealand set U.S. All-Comers’ Records, winning the men’s and women’s divisions with late surges.
Kisorio fought off a challenge from one of his best friends, countryman Sammy Kitwara, winning in 58:46, smashing the mark of 58:55, which was then a World record when set by Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia in Phoenix in 2006. Smith also beat back a challenge from Werknesh Kidane of Ethiopia, winning in 1:07:11, breaking the previous U.S. best of 1:07:36 she set at New Orleans in February.
“The times were unbelievable,” said Rod Dixon, Olympic medalist and 1983 New York City Marathon Champion. “As we keep moving on in history, the bar keeps getting lower. Pretty soon, if you put up one or two million dollars in prize money, you’ll see someone run a Marathon under two hours.” Dixon won this historic Philadelphia race twice, setting a World record here in 1981.
“The times were fantastic,” Jim Ryun, the great U.S. distance runner and U.S. Olympic silver medallist said. “It was so beautiful to see. Their strides and their form were wonderful. They were very strong at the finish.”
Kisorio, who plans to run his first Marathon in New York in November, was excited about his race.
“I was looking to run my fastest ever,” said Kisorio, who also won the Philadelphia race last year in a then course record 1:00:16. “I’ve been training hard in Kenya for the last two months.”
The 22-year-old running sensation kept looking at his watch during the race. “When I saw my watch at 10K, I knew I could run under 60 (minutes). This course is fantastic.” Kisorio improved his personal record by 1:17.
Kisorio and Kitwara broke away from the field near the three-mile mark and continued running stride-for-stride until the final hill, shortly before the finish. Then, Kisorio made a move and Kitwara just couldn’t keep up.
“Going up the hill was hard for me,” Kitwara said, after finishing two seconds behind his compatriot in 58:48 but also under Gebrselassie’s old mark. Kisorio’s time of was also the fourth-fastest ever and Kitwara’s was fifth.
Smith, 25, entered the race with much trepidation. What caused her psychological concern was her performance in the Boston Marathon in April. There, she had a huge lead after 10 miles when she developed a torn calf muscle and had to drop out.
“It was nice to have this race,” Smith said. “I needed this for motivation. I was struggling with Boston. Physically, it didn’t take me long to recover, but mentally it did. I was just trying to run hard and be relaxed and feel comfortable. I knew I was running fast, but I wasn’t sure what my times were translating to.” -- History, it turned out!
Smith and Kidane ran together until about the final mile. Then, Smith took the lead and Kidane couldn’t keep up.
“I wore her down,” Smith said. “She was tough. To beat her is something. She’s a World champion.”
Kidane, winner of six medals at the World Championships including a gold, finished in 1:07:28, also under the old U.S. All-Comers Record. The best American was Maegan Kifchin of Ithaca, NY who placed fifth in 1:11:04, bursting onto the U.S. distance running scene with the second fastest Half Marathon time by an American this year.
Smith also set pending U.S. all-comers’ records for 10 miles (51:04) and 20 kilometres (1:03:38), while Kisorio set a pending all-comers’ mark of 55:44 for 20K, making for a historic day in Philadelphia.
Bobby Curtis, former Villanova University all-American, was the first U.S. finisher in the men’s race, placing ninth in 1:01:53 in his first Half-Marathon, also becoming the second fastest American half-marathoner for the year. Olympian Adam Goucher, in his first race in some two years, also dipped under the Olympic trials qualifier of 1:05:00, finishing in 1:04:52. He was one of seven men and nine women who qualified for the U.S. Marathon Trials at today’s race.
Bert Rosenthal (organisers) for the IAAF
Leading Results –
1. Matthew Kisorio, 22, Kenya, 58:46
2. Sammy Kitwara, 24, Kenya, 58:48
3. James Mwangi, 27, Kenya, 1:00:43
4. Peter Kamais, 34, Kenya, 1:01:07
5. Julias Koskei, 29, Kenya, 1:01:22
1. Kim Smith, 29, New Zealand, 1:07:11
2. Werknesh Kidane, 29, Ethiopia, 1:07:28
3. Bizunesh Deba, 24, Ethiopia, 1:09:55
4. Jane Kibii, 26, Kenya, 1:10:25
5. Maegan Kifchin, 23, USA, 1:11:05