With a solid solo run over the latter half of the race, Italy's Anna Incerti confirmed her rise on the international level after winning the 35th Rome Ostia Half Marathon in 1:09:24 on Sunday (01). Incerti beat France's Christelle Daunay and Germany's Irina Mikitenko, the Queen of the women's Marathon in 2008. Elijah Keitany gave Kenya its eighth win in a row, crossing the line in 1:00:59.
Women's race - Solo run for Incerti
All the pre-race attention was on Mikitenko, the winner of the World Marathon Majors last year and the series' $500,000 prize. The Kazahkstan-born athlete is the reigning London and Berlin Marathon champion, but in Rome she seemed far from the form which last September propelled her to the No. 4 spot on the Marathon's all-time list with her 2:19:19.
From the start her run was heavy and after 3km she had already been dropped by Incerti, who was pushing the rabbit, Tanzania's Zakia Mrisho. At 5km (16:28) the 28-year-old Italian had nine seconds on Daunay and Italy's Rosaria Console, while Mikitenko was three seconds behind. At 10km (33:01) Mrisho dropped out but Incerti didn't slow down. At 15km (49:05), after a fast 5km portion of the course aided by a slight downhill, Mikitenko had caught Daunay and both were 58 seconds behind the leader.
When Incerti passed the 18km mark and enter the last stretch of the race along the sea, she could have yet run a sub-1:09 time. However the strong wind slowed her and she failed by just nine seconds to break the course record, set by Algeria's Souad Ait Salem last year. In the final Daunay dropped Mikitenko again and closed in 1:10:30, a PB by 35 seconds, while the German crossed the line in 1:11:01. Console struggled hard in the last kilometres and was 4th in a disappointing 1:13:20.
Incerti - "It was a wonderful day!"
"It was a wonderful day," Incerti said. "I kept a very strong pace for the whole race, I had no crisis. With some better pacing perhaps I could have gone closes to Italian record." The national record of 1:08:30 was set by Maria Guida in Lisboa in 1996.
"She is understanding day-by-day her strength," her coach Tommaso Ticali said. "I'm sure she can already run 2:24-2:25 in the Marathon, she seems born to run like Kenyans or Ethiopians." Incerti is in the field for the Rome Marathon on 22 March. In Milan last November she upset everybody beating Pamela Chepchumba and closing in 2:27:42, despite a strong wind there as well.
In the last three years the Milan City Marathon had been the only marathon she has ran outside of championships. She was ninth at 2006 Europeans, 17th at 2007 Worlds and 14th in Beijing last year, where she set a then 2:30:55 PB in the tough Olympic race. "She hardly failed a race," added her fiancee Stefano Scaini, a cross country runner. They are getting married on 23 May 23 in Udine, Scaini's birthplace and the city which host the World Road Running Championships two years ago.
Men's race - Keitany stuns Cheruiyot
The pre-race plan for the men was really ambitious. The goal was a sub-1:00 time, not an easy task on a hilly course like the one from Rome to Ostia. Kenya's Gilbert Chepkwony was the rabbit, but the start was not particularly fast, as the pack crossed 10km in 29:02, half a minute slower than planned. The favourite was 2007 world bronze Evans Cheruiyot, who in his career had broken the one-hour-wall five times, four in a row in his recent appearances.
However, after 15km (43:15) Keitany made the first move. Last year the 25-year-old Kenyan ran a strong 1:00:10 in Berlin, but he was well known as the 30km rabbit in Gebrselassie's 2:03:59 World Record in the same city some months later. The Ethiopian appreciated him so much that he asked him to pace also in Dubai last January.
Cheruiyot seemed able to catch Keitany again, but this few metres wide gap was never filled. He closed with a time of 1:01:07, while little-known Stephen Kibet was third with a PB of 1:01:19. Giovanni Gualdi was the first Italian at the finish line in 1:04:14. For the 8th place he out-sprinted his countrymate Gabriele De Nard, who was given the same time.
Alberto Zorzi for the IAAF
Selected results (21,097km)
1. Elijah Keitany, KEN, 1:00:59
2. Evans Cheruiyot, KEN, 1:01:07
3. Stephen Kibet, KEN, 1:01:19
4. Urige Buta, ETH, 1:02:46
5. Abraham Kipkemei Talam, KEN, 1:03:54
6. Filali Tayeb, MAR, 1:03:57
7. Zaid Issam, MAR, 1:03:59
8. Giovanni Gualdi, ITA, 1:04:14
1. Anna Incerti, ITA, 1:09:24
2. Christelle Daunay FRA 1:10:30
3. Irina Mikitenko, GER, 1:11:01
4. Rosalba Console, ITA, 1:13:20
5. Federica Dal Ri, ITA, 1:15:00
6. Marcella Mancini, ITA, 1:15:24
7. Layla Soufyane, MAR, 1:16:36
8. Valentina Facciani, ITA, 1:17:02