Kenyan James Mwangi and Ethiopian Werknesh Kidane were the respective winners of the men’s and women’s races at the fifth annual Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on Sunday (4).
In winning and setting a course record in 1:00:42, the 22-year-old Kenyan earned a berth in his country's team for the World Half Marathon Championships, Edmonton, Canada (1 Oct). Women's champion Werknesh Kidane of Ethiopia making her half marathon debut won in 1:09:48. Breaking away from an eight-woman pack at the 10-mile mark, the 2004 Olympian blistered the final 5K in 15:58, an average of 5:08 per mile.
The men's pack of 16 was on course record pace thru 10K before 22-year-old Kenyan James Kwambi surged at 7.5 miles, opening up a 20m lead. It wasn't until mile 10 that eventual winner Mwangi reeled in his countryman. A berth on the World Championship team in the balance, Mwangi pressed for the finish in search of the sub-61:00-minute time. Kwambai finished second in 1:01:05 and countryman Yusuf Songoka was third at 1:01:56.
"I knew I was going to win when we turned onto the boardwalk," said Mwangi, who held a six metres lead at that point.
Defending champion Nuta Olaru of Romania and countrywoman Mihaela Botezan led the women through aggressive opening miles of 5:13 and 5:17, well under course record pace. But as the course unfolded, the race began to turn tactical, with eight women from five different countries still together through Camp Pendleton and back along Atlantic Ave.
As the 10-mile mark approached, Kidane moved into position and as they crossed the mile marker, she blasted away. A 5:10 mile was followed by a 5:03, as the leader increased her margin and ran alone down the finishing stretch on the boardwalk.
"Before I ran the Half Marathon I thought it was too long," said Kidane. "Now I think it's really good. The weather is perfect to me. It was nice to have the cheering along the course. Everything is perfect today."
Kenyan Salina Kosgei was second at 1:10:03 and Ikuko Nagao of Japan was third at 1:10:13. Nagao's countrywoman, Naoko Takahashi, the gold medalist in the marathon at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, was fourth in 1:10:30.
2005 Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon
Top 10 Men
1, James Mwangi, 22, Kenya, 1:00.42,
2, James Kwambai, 22, Kenya, 1:01:05,
3, Yusuf Songoka, 25, Kenya, 1:01:56,
4, John Korir, 29, Kenya, 1:02:22
5, Mohammed Amyn, 27, Morocco
6, Christopher Cheboiboch, 27, Kenya,
7, Moses Kemboi, 27, Kenya, 1:02:45,
8, John Gwako, 27, Kenya, 1:02:55,
9, Yoichiro Akiyama, 25, Japan, 1:02:59,
10, James Koskei, 36, Kenya, 1:03:18,
Top 10 Women
1, Werknesh Kidane, 23, Ethiopia, 1:09:48
2, Salina Kosgei, 27, Kenya, 1:10:03
3, Ikuko Nagao, 23, Japan, 1:10:13,
4, Naoko Takahashi, 29, Japan, 1:10:30,
5, Asha Gigi, 31, Ethiopia, 1:10:39,
6, Mihaela Botezan, 29, Romania, 1:10:45,
7, Nuta Olaru, 35, Romania, 1:11:06,
8, Alevtina Ivanova, 30, Russia, 1:11:14,
9, Miho Ichikawa, 33, Japan, 1:11:33,
10, Luminita Talpos, 32, Romania, 1:11:41,