Florence Kiplagat joins the sub-2:20 club in Berlin after her 2:19:44 victory (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Kiplagat and Kiprop to square off at Roma-Ostia Half - Preview

24 February 2012No less than 12,850 runners will toe the starting line at the 38th edition of the Rome-Ostia Half Marathon on Sunday (26) which joins the IAAF Silver Label Road Race circuit for the first time in its history and will also incorporate the Italian Half Marathon Championships. The Roma Ostia, which has been organised by Luciano Duchi since 1974, has established itself as one of the most popular Italian Half Marathon races.


The women’s race arguably boasts one of the best fields in the history of the Rome-Ostia. The spotlight will be on the clash between Kenyan stars Florence Kiplagat and Agnes Kiprop. Kiplagat, the IAAF World Cross Country champion, won the 2011 edition of the Berlin Marathon in impressive 2:19:44 which ranks her 12th in the world all-time list. Kiplagat clocked a 1:07:40 PB in the Lille Half Marathon in her debut over the distance and went on to win the World Half Marathon title one month later in Nanning (China) in 1:08:24.


Kiprop, second in two top Marathon races in Paris and Frankfurt in 2011, will be aiming at improving her half marathon PB of 1:08:48 set last year in Ras Al Kaimah in 2010.


The Ethiopian challenge is led by Tirfi Beyene who ran a Half Marathon PB of 1:09:24 and finished second at the Shanghai Marathon in 2011 and third in Paris in 2010.


Olypmic Marathon spots on the line


Anna Incerti and Valeria Straneo will fight for the Italian title but it will not be only a race for national honours as it will be a crucial race to choose the three names who will represent the Italian team at the London Olympic Games. Incerti, European Marathon bronze medallist in Barcelona, won the Rome Ostia last year setting a course record of 1:09:06 and then went on to clock a new life time best of 2:25:32 at the Berlin Marathon where Valeria Straneo produced a major upset by setting the qualifying standard for London with 2:26:33 which smashed her previous 2:41:15 set in 2009. The fight for Olympic selection will be particularly fierce as two more runners Nadja Ejjaffini and Rosaria Console clocked sub-2:27 times in 2011.


Tough defence in store for Megersa - Men's race


Ethiopian Beyu Tujuba Megersa, who won last year’s edition, will return to the Italian capital. Megersa ran the first ever sub-60 time in the history of the Roma-Ostia clocking a PB of 59:58, which he lowered to 59:43. On Sunday he will take on Kenyans John Kiprotich and Vincent Kipruto. Kiprotich clocked 59:23 at the Rotterdam Half Marathon in 2009 and then he went on to win the Vienna Marathon in 2:08:29. Kipruto emerged as a force to be reckoned with in 2010 when he finished third at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2:05:13 behind Patrick Makau and Geoffrey Mutai. Last year Kipruto took two major second places in Rotterdam in 2:05:33 and at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu in 2:10:06.


Italian runners cannot obviously keep up with the top African runners but it will be interesting to follow some of the major local athletes fighting for the National Half Marathon title. The top Italians in the field are Italian 5000m champion and World University Games bronze medallist Stefano La Rosa, Domenico Ricatti and Giovanni Ruggiero.


Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF