Fabiano Joseph of Tanzania confirmed his ranking as the world’s number one half-marathoner, when he ran away from the defending champion, John Korir of Kenya, to win the MTN Lagos Half-Marathon in a new course record of 1:02:20. In his first serious race in six months, following a left hamstring injury, Korir, 25 acquitted himself well enough, finishing second and equalling his former course record of 1:03:05.
John Yuda, Joseph’s training partner at Tanzania’s altitude training center at Arusha, finished third in 1:04:21. But with such a decisive victory, Joseph, not 20 until mid-December, more than underlined the form that won him a narrow victory in the World Half-Marathon Championship in Edmonton, Canada six weeks ago.
Competitors struggle with hot conditions
At the 8 a.m. start beside the Port of Lagos, the temperature was already 27 C. (80 F) with 94% humidity, the sort of conditions that are always going to rule out super-fast times on this course. Fortunately, the sun was obscured by clouds for most of the hour that the elite were operating. But the 20,000 or so locals, most of whom were on the course until close to midday, bore the full brunt of the heat. At the front, Charles Munyeki Kiama was undaunted both by the conditions and the quality of opposition.
Kiama, just 17 and the winner of the Nairobi Half-Marathon in 1:01:34 three weeks ago, lived up to his billing as the quality outsider. He dashed into the lead, and stayed there until just before the 15 kilometres mark. By 5km, he only had the eventual top three placers, plus Yonas Kifle of Eritrea (third in Edmonton), and Cuthbert Nyasango of Zimbabwe for company.
By 12km in 34:45, there was only Kiama, Joseph and Korir at the front. But when Joseph moved into the lead just before 15km (43:50), it was Kiama who cracked. He dropped back so rapidly that Yuda not only passed him, but took close to a minute out of him over the last five kilometres.
And it didn’t take long for Joseph to do the same to Korir. The pair occasionally train together in Kenya, but there was little sign of their friendship as the finishing venue, the National Stadium, loomed into view on the horizon across the causeway. Joseph invited Korir to share the lead, and when the Kenyan politely refused, his Tanzanian neighbour rightly took it as a sign of fatigue and moved away inexorably.
Third straight top class road win for Joseph in six weeks
Korir said later that he was getting dehydrated, proof of which was he snatched a bottle of water from a watching policeman’s hand, and downed it. That got him to the next water station in better shape, and he briefly rallied. But it made little impression on Joseph, who wheeled into the stadium at just past 9 a.m. for another victory. After two second places in the ‘world half,’ in 2003 and 2004, his win in Edmonton had given him a taste for victory. He flew to France from Canada, and won the Paris 10km. This is his third top class road win in six weeks.
He said afterwards, "When Korir did not want to respond when I asked him to take the lead, I thought then that I was going to win. I was third in this race in 2002 (his first international race, at 16 years old!), so now I am very glad to win it."
Korir said, “It was just too hot for me. It’s much cooler where I train at altitude in Kenya. I was OK until 15k, then I started to need water. I was glad to finish second, because Fabiano is World champion. It’s no shame to finish second to the champion."
Joseph pocketed US$10,000, with Korir taking $5000 and Yuda $3000.
Low key women's race
The women’s race was a lower key affair, with Millicent Doadi of Ghana winning $3000 for first place, in 1:16:31. Faustina Ramos of Spain was second ($1,500) in 1:24:03, and Farida Makula of Tanzania third ($500) in 1:25.05.
Pat Butcher for the IAAF