Samuel Wanjiru wins the 21st Mitja Marató de Granollers (Ramon Ferrandis) © Copyright
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Wanjiru and Kiplagat win Shekih Zayed Half in Abu Dhabi

Samuel Wanjiru (KEN) and Lornah Kiplagat (NED), the men’s and women’s World Half Marathon record holders respectively, won the half marathon race at the inaugural edition of the Shekih Zayed Marathon in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Friday (29 Feb).

The race attracted some of the best road runners in the world thanks largely to its bumper prize money purse of USD 2 million.

MEN - Wanjiru misses mark, but savours victory

Sammy Wanjiru was the undoubted favourite going into the race and justified his pre-race billing with a solid 60:33 performance.

The 22-year-old, who opened his season with victory in the Granollers Half Marathon in Spain and scheduled to compete in the Pier-to-Pier City Half Marathon in the Netherlands in mid-March, took a nine-second victory over Tanzania’s 2005 World Half Marathon champion Fabiano Joseph with Ethiopia’s national half marathon champion Eshetu Wondimu edging out compatriot Tsegaye Kebede for third.

"I want to get my mother a tractor,” Wanjiru told the Gulf Daily News after his victory. “My mum has a 5-acre maize field and now she can employ a driver and relax a bit.”

In addition to possible record aspirations in the Netherlands, Wanjiru is scheduled to compete in the 2008 Flora London Marathon in April with a view to earning a place in the Kenyan team for the Beijing Olympics.

WOMEN - Kiplagat steals the show

Kenyan-born Dutchwoman Lornah Kiplagat is always a powerhouse when competing on the roads. And following her victory in the World’s Best 10km in San Juan, Puerto Rico last week (24 Feb), she eased to victory here with another dominating performance.

Using her usual front-running style to good effect, Kiplagat took a grip on the race early on clocking 1:08:52 for a two-minute victory over Ethiopia’s Berhane Adere, 2003 World Half Marathon champion, and her compatriot Gete Wami, who took a share of the World Marathon Majors (WMM) series jackpot in November last year.

“It was tough out there and it was quite hot,” Kiplagat told reporters after her victory. “While running uphill, there was a strong wind too and I had to shelve my plans to go for the record. I was also a bit tired after Sunday's race.”

Kiplagat will now take a short break after her hectic racing schedule before embarking on preparations for Beijing, while the two Ethiopians will square off once again at the 2008 Flora London Marathon in April.

Elshadai Negash and agencies for the IAAF

RESULTS (Half Marathon)

Men
1. Samuel Wanjiru (KEN) 60.33
2. Fabiano Joseph (TAN) 60.42
3. Eshetu Windimu (ETH) 61.16
4. Tsegaye Kebede (ETH) 61.45
5. Dieudonne Disi (RWA) 62.24

Women
1. Lornah Kiplagat (NED) 1:08.52
2. Berhane Adere (ETH) 1:11.23
3. Gete Wami (ETH) 1:11.30
4. Hilda Kibet (NED) 1:11.37
5. Rita Jeptoo (KEN) 1:02.24