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General News 1 October 2009 – Monte

In absence of defending champion, history beckons for Radcliffe – World Half Marathon

MonteCarloWhile the participation of the reigning three-time men’s champion Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea has already been confirmed, sadly due to a persistent knee injury his counterpart in the women’s division, triple-winner Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands, will not be taking part in the IAAF / EDF Energy World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham, UK on Sunday 11 October 2009.

However, as if to fill this breach in quality three-weeks ago Britain’s former three-time champion Paula Radcliffe stepped forward to compete in Birmingham, and with that decision taken an historic opportunity beckons for the 35-year-old who has the chance to become the first four-time winner of the World Half Marathon title.

Radcliffe, who won the World Half Marathon title in Veracruz (MEX) in 2000, Bristol (GBR) in 2001 and Vilamoura (POR) in 2003, presently ranks slightly below both Kiplagat (2006/07/08) and Kenya’s Tegla Loroupe (1997/98/99) in the championship’s history, as the triple victories of the latter two were achieved in consecutive years.

The Briton, who is the holder of the World record for the full marathon distance, is on the road back from a serious toe injury and proved her fitness with a 1:09:45 win over the half marathon in New York on 16 August.

It’s a time someway off Radcliffe’s official personal best for the half marathon of 1:06:47 set when winning the 2001 World title, and even further adrift of her much quicker career time of 1:05:40 run on a slightly downhill course (Newcastle – South Shields; 30.5m) when winning the Great North Run on 21 September 2003.

Note. The World record on a ratified course is 1:06:25 which Kiplagat set when winning the 2007 World Half Marathon in Udine, Italy.

Yet yesterday’s announcement by the New York Marathon race director Mary Wittenberg that Radcliffe will make an attempt to capture a fourth Big Apple victory on 1 November, should leave nobody in any doubt that the 2005 World Marathon champion is now fit again and as such a serious bet for gold in Birmingham.

Notably leading the opposition to Radcliffe in Birmingham will be the Kenya’s 2007 World Half Marathon silver medallist Mary Jepkosgei Keitany, who is the fastest athlete in the world over the half marathon in 2009 after clocking 1:07:00 in Lille, France, and possesses a 1:06:48 PB from Udine in 2007, the fourth fastest of all-time on courses applicable for record purposes. 

Also not to be discounted is Japan based Kenyan Philes Moraa Ongori, the fourth quickest runner of the year thanks to her 1:07:50 which she clocked in the RAK Half Marathon at the end of February.

Chris Turner for the IAAF