Sammy Kitwara breaks the tape in 58:58 at Rotterdam (John de Pater) © Copyright
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Kitwara blazes 58:58 in Rotterdam

Rotterdam, The NetherlandsSammy Kitwara blazed his way to a 58:58 victory at the Fortis Rotterdam Half-Marathon today.

The 22-year-old Kenyan policeman’s performance was the fourth fastest ever and makes Kitwara just the sixth man to dip under the magical 59-minute barrier.

It was the second major Half Marathon victory in The Netherlands in the past six months time for Kitwara. In March he won the City-Pier-City Half Marathon in The Hague, beating the emperor of the road Haile Gebrselassie into second place.

On an overcast and sometimes rainy, day with light winds and temperatures of about 18 degrees, Kitwara bettered the previous course record of 59:12 was set by Evans Kiprop Cheruiyot two years ago. On the fast flat course the first six finishers all clocked personal bests over the 21.1 Km distance.

Behind Kitwara two other Kenyans, Jonathan Maiyo and James Kwambai, battled it out for second with Maiyo prevailing in 59:08. Kwambai, who finished second in a thrilling finish in the Rotterdam marathon on 5 April where he clocked 2:04:27 just behind winner Duncan Kibet who was credited with the same time, took third place in 59:09.

Led by pacemaker Silas Kiplagat, a training companion of Kitwara’s, a large group of 18 got off to a fast start covering the first five kilometres in 13:37, five seconds faster that the split time Wanjiru registered when he set his 58:33 World record two years ago in The Hague. Wanjiru, who is currently preparing for October’s Chicago Marathon, was also in that big lead group but it became clear that Wanjiru was not in his best shape as he lost contact with the leaders near the eight kilometre marker.

The lead pack was reduced to a group of eight Kenyans by the 10 kilometre mark – Kitwara, Maiyo, Kwambai,  Bernard Kipyego, Wilson Chebet, John Kiprotich, Robert Kipchumba and Charles Munyeki. Working together the eight passed 15 k in 41:54. At that moment Munyuki was the first to fall back. At 17 k Kitwara pressed the pace and behind him the group broke. From that moment on Kitwara was building to his lead. Maiyo, Kwambai and Kipyego tried to follow but they never threatened the eventual winner.

Kitwara, who was obviously pleased with his victory, was asked after the race when he would contest his first marathon. Producing a broad smile, he said, “It will take some years. I think a half marathon is long enough for me.”

Wanjiru, the 2008 Olympic Marathon champion said afterwards that he had not feared losing his Half Marathon World Record. “The conditions were not ideal. I could not follow as I am in full training for the Chicago marathon.''

Kwambai, who knows the finish on the Coolsingel so well after his sprint finish in April’s Rotterdam Marathon, said, “I am happy with my personal best time on the half marathon. I heard just five days ago that I had to run the half marathon here today.”

The quality of the women’s race was not to compare with that of the men. The winner of the all Dutch podium was Merel de Knegt who clocked 1:14:31.

Wim van Hemert for the IAAF

Leading Results –
1.Sammy Kitwara, KEN                  58:58 PB, course record (previous 59:12 Evans Kiprop Cheruiyot, KEN, 9 Sep 2007)
(splits 13:37; 27:44; 41:54; 55.59)
2. Jonathan Maiyo, KEN                59:08 PB
3. James Kwambai, KEN                 59:09 PB
4. Bernard Kipyego, KEN               59:10 PB
5. Wilson Chebet, KEN                 59:15 PB
6. John Kiprotich, KEN                59:23 PB
7. Robert Kipchumba, KEN              59:32
8. Charles Munyeki, KEN             1:00:18
9. Samuel Wanjiru, KEN              1:01:08
10. Elijah Keitany, KEN             1:01:14
11. Abiyote Guta, ETH               1:01:21 PB
12. Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot, KEN   1:01:22 PB
13. Jacob Kiplagat Yator, KEN       1:01:56
14. Gilbert Yegon, KEN              1:02:00
15. Nicholas ManzaKamakya, KEN      1:02:10
16. Koen Raymaekers, NED            1:05:22
17.Ruben Scheurwater, NED           1:05:58
18. Robert Ton, NED                 1:06:03
19. Ronald Schro, NED               1:08:00
1. Merel de Knegt, NED         1:14:31
2. Jolanda Verstraten, NED     1:17:50
3. Marlies Overbeke, NED       1:20:48
4. Nadja Wijenberg, NED        1:21:00 (40+)