John Yuda of Tanzania clinched an outstanding victory at the 32nd edition of the Stramilano Half Marathon, crossing the finish line in 1:00:25, twenty- eight seconds ahead of the Kenya’s Patrick Ivuti.
This year's Stramilano was a high-level competition which featured four of the six fastest half-marathon runners of 2002: Patrick Ivuti (59:45, second best time set in Udine on 29 September and twice winner at the Stramilano in 2000 and 2001), Philip Rugut (59:53 in Udine, 29 September 2002), John Yuda (1:00:02 in South Shields, 6 October 2002), and Daniel Rono (1:00:14 in Groningen, 9 May 2002) plus Ukrainian Sergiy Lebid, who determined to bounce back from his disappointment at the World Cross Championships in Lausanne.
“In Switzerland I suffered from the effect of a very warm climate of about 18°C, having spent three weeks training on the Black Sea where the temperature was about minus 2°C. When I lagged behind after the early stages in Lausanne, I realised I could no longer catch up with the leading group and I decided to drop out and concentrate on the Stramilano event,” explained Lebid.
“I am a bit disappointed I peaked in January and February, and not in mid-March for the World Cross Champs.”
A slow start probably affected the final result. The front runners went through the first two kilometres in 6:08. The leading group which included Yuda, Ivuti, Rono, Rugut, Martin Sulle and Fabian Joseph of Tanzania picked up the pace and was clocked in 14:37 at the five kilometres mark.
When the eighth kilometre was reached, Yuda decided to increase the pace, and consistently pulled away from the rest of the group shaking off his rivals by mid-race to avoid a final sprint to the finish line.
The 24-year old runner went through the eighth kilometre in 23:14 and the tenth in 28:44. Last year after finishing fourth in Milan behind the winner Rachid Berradi of Italy, Kenya’s Charles Kamathi and Marco Mazza of Italy, Yuda was very disappointed and promised he would have returned to Milan to take a win in this race which he says he likes a lot.
At the twelfth kilometre reached in 34:31, Yuda increased his lead over Ivuti, Sulle, Joseph and Lebid to about 10 to 20 metres. The Tanzanian passed the 15th km in 42:56, the 18th km in 51:35 and the 20th km in 57:23, and his lead over Ivuti, who would eventually finish second in 1:00:53, was increased to between twenty and thirty metres.
“During the first kilometres I realised that the pace was too slow. I expected the pacemakers to help me keep a sub 1-hour pace. I wanted to run under the 1 hour barrier but I am happy with the win in a race I prepared specifically for after an injury in mid-February which forced me to change my original schedule."
"For this reason I decided not to run at the World Cross Championships and to concentrate on my training schedule for the road races season and specifically for this race. I was very determined to fight back from last year’s disappointment on the streets of Milan,” said a very shy Yuda.
“Road races represent my future. I am already planning to run the London Marathon in 2004.” Asked when he was sure he would win, Yuda said modestly: “I only realised that the victory was mine when I crossed the finish line.”
John Yuda, who trains near Nairobi with Kenyan athletes and competes for the Puma team, continues the tradition of African winners in the Stramilano. The tradition was interrupted last year by Moroccan-born Italian Rachid Berradi, who improved the Italian record to 1:00:20.
The Stramilano half-marathon has a special reputation as one of the fastest road races because of the particularly flat course. In Milan, Moses Tanui (four times winner in Milan between 1990 and 1993) set the World Best for the 21.097km distance in 59:47 in 1993 and Paul Tergat lowered this record to 59:17 in 1998.
Tergat won six consecutive editions of the Stramilano between 1994 and 1999. The Kenyan domination in Milan continued in 2000 and 2001 thanks to Patrick Ivuti, one of Paul Tergat’s team-mates. This year Ivuti was fresh from his silver medal at the World Cross Country Championships in Lausanne behind Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, and probably the demanding race one week ago in Switzerland prevented him from presenting any real resistance to Yuda.
This traditional Italian race has always been a springboard event for new generations of runners. And the 2003 edition of this race lived up to the reputation as a milestone event in the career of many young runners. Yuda’s countryman Martin Sulle (born in 1982) crossed the finish-line in third (1:01:33), one second faster than the 18-year-old Fabian Joseph (also of Tanzania), who was the major surprise of the day.
Sergiy Lebid, who is not a specialist of the half marathon although he claims a second place behind Ivuti at the 2001 Stramilano, finished sixth in 1:01:51.
The 39-year-old Angelo Carosi, a runner-up in the 3000 steeplechase at the 1994 European Championships in Helsinki, was the best Italian with his eleventh place in 1:03:23.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Results of the Stramilano Half Marathon
1 John Yuda (Tanzania) 1:00:25
2 Patrick Ivuti (Kenya) 1:00:53
3 Martin Sulle (Tanzania) 1:01:33
4 Fabian Joseph (Tanzania) 1:01:34
5 Daniel Rono (Kenya) 1:01:39
6 Sergiy Lebid (Ukraine) 1:01:51
7 Ben Mutai Kiplimo (Kenya) 1:02:20
8 Henry Tarus (Kenya) 1:02:56
9 Vasyl Matvichuk (Ukraine) 1:03:19
10 Alexey Sokolov (Russia) 1:03:20
11 Angelo Carosi (Italy) 1:03:23
12 Maurizio Leone (Italy) 1:03:38