Kenya's James Kwambai wins the 2005 Rome-Ostia Half Marathon. (Zorzi) © Copyright
General News Ostia (Rome), Italy

Kwambai and Console run fast Half Marathons in Rome

Kenya's James Kwambai, smashed this year's best Half Marathon time (previously 1:01:33 by Gebrselassie in Granollers), when clocking 1:00:45 to win yesterday’s Rome-Ostia Half Marathon.

In the women’s race, less than 24 hours after returning from a training trip in Namibia, Italy's Rosalba Console set a stunning personal best time when winning in 1:09:34. Console tied the best 2005 time set by Takako Kotorida in Marugame three weeks ago.

WOMEN - Solo win for Console

The late withdrawals of last year champion Hafida Izem (illness) and the best Italian marathon runner of 2004 Bruna Genovese (injury) left Console alone among the main pre-race favourites. Even without rivals, Console planned a very fast race. “I has worked very hard and I am in a very good shape,” she said after the race, “however, I came back home just yesterday at noon, so I was uncertain about how fast I could run. I set my own pace from the beginning and tried to run as flat as possible.”

With a first part of the course including many ups and downs, Console started at a good pace and had splits at 5km in 16:24 and 10km in 33:04. From 9km to 15km, with the course favoured by a slightly downhill gradient, Console clocked around 3:10 every km. In the last 3km, close to the sea, the wind made her slow down a little, but her 1:09:34 was just 9 seconds of the 1:09:25 set by Gloria Marconi in 2003. In that race Console had been second with her previous PB 1:09:56.

Now Lisbon and then the Paris Marathon

"Now my focus shifts on the Lisbon Half Marathon (13 Mar), where I will check again my shape," Console added. "Then my spring goal is the Paris Marathon on April 10." In 2003 she ran in Paris the best marathon in her life. She remained alone after 30km and even if in the last kilometres she was caught and overcome by Kenya's Beatrice Omwanza, she set her PB with 2:27:48, the 5th time ever in Italy.

MEN - Slow pace in the first half for Kwambai

In the men's race, Kwambai had a great goal: to go close to one-hour and even break it. He had planned to pass through 10km with a time of 28:40 and then push even faster in the second part. However, since 5km it was clear that the goal would be impossible, as the pack led by pacer Benjamin Pseret clocked 14:32. At 10km they were 35 seconds off the plan (29:15). "We probably suffered a little on the uphill stretches," Kwambai said after the race.

Pseret dropped out 1km later and Kwambai took the lead. At 14km he made a strong move, clocking 2:41 in that km, and dropped countrymen William Todoo and Philip Biwott, who since then had remained with him. He kept running at about a 2:50 pace, but the time they had lost in the first part was not recoverable any more. He closed with 1:00:45, the 3rd fastest time in the race's history after Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot's 1:00:06 (2002) and the 1:00:22 set by later to be crowned World Half Marathon champion Paul Kirui last year.

Todoo and Biwott both set PBs, respectively with 1:01:22 and 1:01:48. The first home runner at the finish line was Antonello Petrei, 4th with 1:04:07. Italian marathon national team member Alberico Di Cecco (10th at Olympic Games marathon) dropped out at 10km, having planned the race as just a test for the Rome Marathon (13 Mar).

"I very much like half marathons!"

Kwambai's time was not a PB, as he had clocked 1:00:22 in last year Udine Half Marathon, when winning the race for the second time in a row. "I like road races, I never run either on the track, nor cross country. In particular I very much like the Half Marathon distance and I am sure that very soon I can run below one hour,” said Kwambai, who usually trains in Eldoret with Sammy Korir and Fred Kiprop under the guidance of Italy's Gabriele Rosa and Claudio Berardelli.

“I don't think about a Marathon for this year, it's still too long for me. I planned to run in Lisbon in two weeks and then, of course, in September I will aim for my third win in Udine.”

Appeal for journalists abducted in Iraq

At the start some journalist of Italian daily newspaper "il manifesto" showed a banner in honour of their collegue Giuliana Sgrena and of other journalist Florence Aubenas and her translator Hussein Hanoun, who has been abducted in Iraq. The banner speaks "Free Giuliana - Florence - Hussein".

Alberto Zorzi for the IAAF

Results (21.097km)

Men's race
1. James Kipsang Kwambai  KEN  1:00:45
2. William Todoo Rotich  KEN 1:01:22
3. Philip Kiplagat Biwott  KEN 1:01:48

Women's race
1. Rosalba Console  ITA  1:09:34
2. Marcella Mancini  ITA  1:13:15
3. Giustina Menna  ITA  1:14:40