Let me try againTergat to make new
record attempt in "Stramilano"
Kenya's Paul Tergat will be trying for his fifth successive victory in the "Stramilano" half marathon race on Saturday. The race's flat, fast course runs around one of the most famous monuments to religious architecture - the Milan Duomo, or cathedral - set in the historical centre which has an architectural heritage as rich as the commercial and financial tissue of this business capital of Italy.
Since its introduction 27 years ago, the Stramilano has rapidly become a massive popular success: the amateurs race which takes place on the same course Sunday is expected to attract over fifty thousand participants and, for a day, the streets which are normally jammed with cars will become the exclusive preserve of pedestrians.
Paul Tergat is particularly attached to the Stramilano, for it was in this event, in 1994, that he obtained his first, major international triumph. He had arrived from Kenya shortly before and was living in Brescia, where he was training under Dr Gabriele Rosa. It was Rosa who, on the eve of that race, spoke to us of a phenomenal young Kenyan who was going to make his debut onto the distance racing scene and would revolutionise it. The young Kenyan's name was Tergat and it was suggested that a journalist who prided himself on his knowledge of athletics should watch his performance in the Stramilano.
So it was that here, at the feet of the celebrated "Madonnina", under the watchful eye of the marble gargoyles of the Duomo, that Tergat's fabulous career began. Now, he is back for his fifth appearance in the event; partly as a show of gratitude, but also to attempt to add the half-marathon record to the 10,000m track record he snatched from Haile Gebrselassie last year.
The current half-marathon best mark - 59:47 - currently belongs to Moses Tanui (KEN), whilst we await homologation of the 59:43 run by Portugal's Antonio Pinto in Lisbon in March. Tanui's mark was established in the 1993 edition of the Stramilano and Tergat ran the same course in a time of 58:51 in 1996, only for the mark to be refused when it was found that the course was 49m short of the official distance of 21.097km.
The course of this 1998 edition has been measured and re-measured and the person responsible for this -Jean François Delasalle (FRA) - will be there to ensure than no athlete deviates by so much as a metre from the set route. with these guarantees, Tergat will be able to put his all into another title attempt, always assuming that Morocco's Khalid Khannouchi, the surprise winner of the Chicago Marathon last year in 2:07:10 (who has a personal best of 60:27 over the half-marathon distance), doesn't turn up trumps again.
If the weather conditions are right, though, it is extremely likely that Paul Tergat will add another record to his collection of awards; the latest of which was received a few days ago, when a panel of journalists in Kenya awarded him the "Guinness Stout Effort Award". Paul Tergat was the first athlete to receive the symbolic tankard in the history of this trophy, which is awarded to people whose actions help to make the world a better place for others.