The Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, which hosts the final race of the Formula One season in two weeks’ time will be put to further sporting effort on 7 January 2010, as Olympic marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru, and recently crowned four-time World Half Marathon champion Zersenay Tadese have been signed-up for the Zayed International Half Marathon, a race which was last held in 2008.
With $300,000 first prize on offer, a successful run in Abu Dhabi for the 22-year-old Wanjiru will mean winnings of close to one million dollars in a little over two months. His victory in Chicago last weekend not only won him $175,000, but it also wrapped up the World Marathon Majors’ Jackpot of $500,000, which he will formally pick up in New York in two weeks’ time.
The young Kenyan won the inaugural Zayed International Half Marathon in January 2008, but the race was cancelled in early 2009, while waiting for finalisation of the Yas Marina circuit.
Wanjiru is World record holder for the half marathon, with his 58:33 in The Hague in 2007, and his translation to the marathon has been the most successful in history, with victory in his last four races, including the Olympic Games, in superfast times, between 2:05:10 and 2:06:39.
As his elder statesman colleague, former world marathon record holder, Paul Tergat said last week, “It’s only a matter of time before Wanjiru breaks the marathon world record.”
It won’t be an easy $300,000 in Abu Dhabi however as reigning four-time World Half Marathon champion Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea will also be on the start line, having just blitzed the hopes of many of the world’s best half marathoners on the streets of Birmingham on 11 October.
Also in the field will be this year’s fastest, Kenyan Patrick Makau (58:52) who has twice been World Half Marathon silver medallist on the heels of the Eritrean’s victories in 2007 and 2008.
The women’s race will also feature a stellar line-up.
The world record holder for the Half Marathon Kenyan born Kiplagat, now running for of the Netherlands, who won the last edition of the Zayed International Half Marathon in 2008 is also signed up.
However, there must be serious question marks surrounding Kiplagat's participation given that she has been sidelined with a knee injury for most of 2009 and recently had to withdraw from the defence of her World Half Marathon title in Birmingham.
But, 27-year-old Mary Keitany of Kenya, who has the top two times in the world this year, including the second best ever, 66:36, and won the World title in Birmingham in the absence of reigning three-time champion Kiplagat has also been secured for the race on 7 January.
Pat Butcher for the IAAF