Eritean Zersenay Tadese, the outstanding pre-race favourite confirmed the predictions in a time of 59:35 taking his fourth successive World title, delivered thanks to a sustained attack which began some 10 kilometres into today’s IAAF / EDF Energy World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham.
Last year in Rio de Janeiro Tadese had destroyed the hopes of his opponents with only five kilometres run but today the challengers to his three-year long hold on the global road running title - especially his compatriot Samuel Tsegay, the entire Kenyan squad, and USA’s much improved Dathan Ritzenhein - were a lot more dodged in their resistance in considerably cooler (11C), and rainy conditions.
Brazil’s Giomar Da Silva was the initial leader after the gun went at 9:30hrs (GMT +1hr), 30 minutes after the women’s race had got underway, and after him Kenyans Kiplimo Kimutai and Sammy Kitwara, and Ritzenhein had had spells in front.
Tadese first edged his chest ahead of the large leading pack just before the 5km point was passed (14:27).
Tadese ran abreast with Kitwara at the front but already before 10km (28:30) had been passed, Kitwara, the second fastest man in the world this year thanks to his recent win in the Rotterdam Half Marathon (58:58), was starting to fade badly. He had been one of the three athletes trapped in the lift on the way to the IAAF Press Conference yesterday morning.
If Kitwara was feeling fatigued by that nearly hour long captivity, Ritzenhein, who along with today’s women’s winner Mary Keitany had also been stuck in the lift, was full of energy and running the best race of his life (PB prior to today was 1:01:35). When Tadese started to apply the pressure it was only the American, Tsegay and two Kenyans Bernard Kipyego and Wilson Kiprotich who were able to follow relatively closely.
With 15km (42:20) gone the reigning champion held an eight second advantage on his nearest pursuers. Ritzenhein was strongly contesting second place and for a couple of kilometres was 5 to 10 metres clear of Tsegay and the Kenyans.
But the American was not yet secure on the podium and with 50:20 on the clock the gap he had established suddenly vanished as Kipyego powered past taking Tsegay with him.
However, Ritzenhein was not to be deterred that easily and managed to keep reasonable contact and shortly after 20km made his own push and was back into silver medal position with Kipyego at his shoulder, and this time of the three it was Tadese’s countryman who was faltering.
Up front Tadese, who had passed 20km (56:23) with 20 seconds on his opponents, in a race of increasing tempo crossed the finish in 59:35, with a 24 second victory.
Behind him Kipyego and Ritzenhein with clear water now between themselves and Tsegay, started their long sprint battle for the tape, with the Kenyan just the strongest taking silver in 59:59, one second ahead of the American who while delighting in bronze had the frustration of missing a sub-60 time.
"I'm really happy, it was very important for me to win and take my fourth title,” said Tadese. “The race was hard, I had to push on. Now I can have a rest and then prepare for the cross country. At the moment I have no plans for another marathon (he did not finish in London this April) but in the future yes I will run a marathon."
Packing well as always Kenya took the team title with Eritrea in silver and Ethiopia with the bronze. The USA was fourth just eight seconds adrift of bronze.
Chris Turner for the IAAF