On a cold but dry afternoon Ethiopia’s Sileshi Sihine and Kenyan Lydia Cheromei just missed the 15km Road Race World records in the 21st edition of the Zevenheuvelenloop.
Olympic 10,000 metres silver medallist Sihine clocked 41:38 on the hilly course missing the World record that Felix Limo set three years ago on the same course, by just nine seconds. Frustratingly, Sihine could have been faster had he not stopped just 150 metres before the finish thinking the race ended under a balloon bridge.
In the women’s race Cheromei's winning time of 47:02 was just five seconds short of Elena Meyer’s World record of 46:57 set thirteen years ago in Cape Town, South Africa.
For both races it was the fastest time of the year for the distance and the second fastest performance ever run.
Sihine’s race from the beginning
The 22 year-old Sihine was from the beginning at the head of a leading group of seven which formed directly after the start. However, it was Dutch 1500/3000 metres runner Ger-Jan Liefers who had the official pace-making job and he brought the group through 3km in 8:30 mins.
After Liefers had left the course Sihine pressed the pace and he passed the 5km point in 14:09 along with compatriot Tadesse Feyissa and Moses Mosop of Kenya - they were five seconds faster than Limo had been at that point of the race three years ago.
Of this leading three Feyissa was the first to fall back, and by 7km Sihine was alone.
Although the temperature was just over zero degrees, tens of thousand spectators were cheering the Ethiopian on the Zevenheuvelen road, the most picturesque but also most difficult part of the course.
Three years ago in his record race Limo had had the advantage of being shadowed by Haile Gebrselassie but today Sihine had to work away on his own.
He passed 10km in 27.56 just two seconds over Limo's intermediate time in 2001 but the difference then increased to five seconds before coming back to just four seconds by 14 kms. However, though Sihine was pressing in the final kilometre he could not close the gap, and because of his ‘early, false finish’, he lost probably another two or three seconds.
”I thought the finish was where I stopped but all of a sudden I heard people screaming, ‘go on, go on',” Sihine said afterwards. “I hope to come back here. I'm sure I can better the World record for 15kms here.”
Cheromei - a class act
In the women's division of the race, Kenyan Lydia Cheromei, 27, who until this season had not raced for nearly three years due to problems in her private life, was a class of her own. She was 1:23 minutes ahead of Ethiopian Diribe Alemu.
Cheromei's return to the world's elite has been remarkable with a silver medal finish in the recent IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in New Delhi, India, in a personal best of 69:00. Also this summer she has won the Rotterdam Half Marathon in 69:13 (12 September).
Zevenheuvelenloop organiser Henk Stevens who had offered a bonus of 25,000 Euros for bettering the World records had a surprise for both winners - “It is a pity you both just missed the World record but you both ran the second fastest time ever. As an organization we have decided to offer a bonus of 7777 euros.''
Wim van Hemert for the IAAF
1. Sileshi Sihine (Eth) 41:38
(best time of 2004, second fastest ever)
2. Moses Mosop (Ken) 42:25
3. Tadesse Feyissa (Eth) 42:59
4. Meshack Sang (Ken) 43:18
5. Bernard Kipyego (Ken) 43:23
6. Francis Kibiwott (Ken) 43:34
7. Sammy Rongo (Ken) 43:49
8. Solomon Tsige (Eth) 44:03
9. Marco Gielen (Ned) 44:15
10. Sander Schutgens (Ned) 44:28
11. Jeroen van Damme (Ned) 44:35
12.Luc Krotwaar (Ned) 44:43
13. Koen Raymaekers (Ned) 45:08
14.Rik Ceulemans (Bel) 45:40
15. Jamal Baligha (Mor) 45:57
1. Lydia Cheromei (Ken) 47:02
(best time of 2004, second fastest ever)
2. Diribe Alemu (Eth) 48:25
3. Bizunesh Bekele (Eth) 49:13
4. Aniko Kalovics (Hun) 49:24
5. Mestewat Tufa (Eth) 50.45
6. Petra Kaminkova (Cze) 51:14
7. Magdeline Chemjor (Ken) 51:46
8. Kristijna Loonen (Ned) 52:38
9. Christine Chepkonga (Ken) 52:41
10. Miranda Boonstra (Ned) 52:43