If there is such a thing as a "half-marathon specialist," then Tanzania`s Fabiano Joseph would have his picture next to the phrase in the Oxford English Dictionary.
That, in so many words, has been said before. But it is worth mentioning again after Joseph’s 1:02:34 course record and win at the Media Maratón Internacional Bogotá on Sunday (30). Joseph did it at 2600 metres of altitude. Under gorgeous-but bright and sunny skies (it got warm, about 20 degrees for the finish of the elite race). The Tanzanian was also up against a seasoned half marathoner like himself, defending champion James Kwambai of Kenya, who has a quick 1:00:22 PB to his name.
"I am very happy to get the course record and win," said Joseph, the reigning World Half Marathon champion. "The weather made it difficult for me. But I am happy to run 62."
Joseph led virtually from the start. At about 3km Ethiopia`s Araya Haregot and a few others dropped off the pace, leaving Joseph, Kwambai and another Kenyan Isaac Macharia the front. Joseph controlled the pace until 7km when Kwambai, who the day before promised an improvement on his 1:03:10 performance from last year, took the helm. "I saw that the pace was too slow after Fabian dropped back behind me," said Kwambai, "so I pushed the pace." The move dropped Macharia, who would add another third-place finish to go with last year’s race.
And so it was down to two. They passed 10km in 28:58. Joseph was in black kit with white striping, and a gold cross dangled from his neck. Kwambai wore blue shorts and a white top, his left hand drifting up in front of his face, like a boxer protecting himself. On the sidewalks, it seemed, all of Bogota came out to see the race. And if they weren’t there yet they were seen running up the sidestreets to yell at the leaders before they came by.
At 13km, as the runners rounded a curve like track runners, Joseph accelerated smoothly, and Kwambai fell back. Kwambai had been 0-2 versus Joseph in his lifetime, and as Joseph continued to pull away, the Kenyan could see the tally rise to 0-3. "Joseph is strong and he is tough," said Kwambai, who finished second in 1:03:05, keeping true to his promise of a faster performance this year. "But I am happy with my time."
Joseph, who has two World Half Marathon silver medals to go with his gold, added another half-marathon win to his resume. He also revealed the secret to his success at 13.1 miles. Speed work. "All the training on the track makes for a fast half-marathon," said Joseph, who has a 10km PB of 27:32.
Joseph, the son of a dairy and corn farmer in Arusha, will make his highly anticipated debut in the marathon this autumn in Amsterdam. He said he chose the course because it is ideal for fast times, and, when pressed, predicted a 2:06.
Ndereba, the one to beat
For the women, Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba put more ammo into the argument that, with Paula Radcliffe out for maternity leave, she is still the woman to beat in the marathon this autumn.
Ndereba’s winning time in the women’s race of 1:12:56 wasn’t close to Susan Chepkemei’s course record (1:10:29) but there were two reasons for that: The heat, and a wicked calf cramp that was probably a byproduct of the heat, which caused her to stop twice in the final 4km to stretch. But, she won very impressively nonetheless, over a field that included fellow Kenyan Lucy Muhami and Mexico`s Dulce Rodriguez.
Ndereba said she will defend her unofficial ‘best-woman-marathoner-while-Paula-is-pregnant’ title at either Chicago or New York. "I have to decide at the end of next week which marathon I will run," she said.
Dave Kuehls for the IAAF
1. Fabiano Joseph TAN 1:02:34
2. James Kwambai KEN 1:03:05
3. Isaac Macharia KEN 1:04:03
4. Araya Haregot ETH 1:05:36
5. Paulo Alves BRA 1:05:55
6. Jaun Diego Contreras PER 1:06:26
7. Samson Ramadhan TAN 1:06:30
8. Silvio Guerra ECU 1:06:41
1. Catherine Ndereba KEN 1:12:56
2. Lucy Muhami KEN 1:14.07
3. Dulce Rodriguez MEX 1:16:18
4. Stella Castro COL 1:17:21
5. Galina Alexandrova RUS 1:18:49
6. Yolanda Fernandez COL 1:18:53
7. Martha Roncera COL 1:19:21
8. Shewarge Amara ETH 1:20:01