31 MAR 2011 Preview Prague, Czech Republic

Kosgei gunning for third straight title at Prague Half Marathon - Preview

Rose Kosgei defending her title at the 2010 Hervis Prague Half Marathon (Victah Sailer)Rose Kosgei defending her title at the 2010 Hervis Prague Half Marathon (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
Most folks come to Prague for the gorgeous monuments or the wonderful beer. But close to 10,000 people from 87 countries are checking in for Saturday’s Hervis Prague Half Marathon, further proof that even in straitened economic times, running tourism is a burgeoning industry.

At the sharp end, Rose Kosgei of Kenya is looking for a third consecutive victory in the women’s section of this IAAF Gold Label Road Race. But the one-time World junior 1500m silver medallist (in 2000) knows she will have the hardest time of the last three years since she will have compatriot and former World junior Cross Country champion, Lydia Cheromei alongside on the start-line.

“Lydia is strong, and is running very well at the moment, so I think it is going to be very difficult,” said Kosgei at Thursday’s press conference, held (for those who prefer the beer option – see above) in a top floor location, which has won Best Hotel Bar in the country for the last two years.

From a nation whose athletes specialise in extraordinary feats, Cheromei’s World title was, as they say, something else! She was only 13 when she won in Antwerp 1991. Twenty years later, after a career hiatus, and the birth of a daughter, now five, Cheromei returned at the Marathon distance, where she most recently recorded a fine 2:23:01 in Dubai in January.

In contrast, Kosgei’s marathon debut, in Toronto last October was 2:30:52. They are closer on paper in the Half Marathon, Cheromei has run 1:08:14 to Kosgei’s course record here of 1:09:03 from two years ago. But Kosgei’s knowledge of the city centre course with stretches of cobblestones should even the odds.

Leading European contender is Christelle Daunay of France, whose national records for both ‘half’ and marathon, 1:08:34 and 2:24:22, came last year at the age of 35.

Sub-60 target in men's race

From an entry of 950 for the inaugural event 12 years ago to 9500 (with over 2000 turned away) this year is a success story if its own, and now the organisers would dearly love to have a ‘Lucky 13th’ with a men’s sub-60 minute run. Accordingly they have lined up three men who have already done it.

Fastest man in the field, Azmeraw Bekele of Ethiopia put his 59:39 in The Hague three weeks ago into perspective. Asked to contrast running two Marathons in three weeks, with two Half Marathons, he replied, “Our 20k runs in training are as hard as a half-marathon. With God’s help, I will win the race, and break the course record.”

That incidentally belongs to Kenyan Nicholas Koech (1:00:07, 2009), who had to drop out earlier this week with an ankle injury. But compatriots, Jairus Chanchima, 59:43 in Lille 2009, and Titus Kwemboi, 59:51 in Ras Al Khaimah 2010, should be ample substitutes.

Chamchima has already put one record straight. When asked if the Julius Chanchima on website ‘athlete biographies’ was his brother, or even his twin, he replied, “It’s actually me. The first Half Marathon I ever ran, Nice 2004, they got my name wrong.”

The event can be followed live via the following link: http://live-map.praguemarathon.com