Leonard Komon is ready to produce something special at the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon. The 10km and 15km world record-holder will be contesting just his second race at the distance at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Saturday (28).
Despite his inexperience at the distance, his personal best of 59:14 makes him the fastest in Prague’s elite field. His goal for this weekend is a world-leading time faster than 59 minutes.
Four more athletes who have already broken the one-hour mark are on the start list while another seven feature personal bests faster than 61 minutes.
The women’s field, led by 2006 Commonwealth 10,000m champion Lucy Kabuu, is equally strong with eight athletes who have run faster than 70 minutes.
It was in Berlin last year where Komon ran his first half marathon, winning the event in 59:14, the fastest debut in history at that distance. “It was a very good experience,” he said of the race in the German capital. “I realised that it is not difficult to run a fast half marathon when you prepare well for it.”
The 2008 world cross-country silver medallist has prepared thoroughly for the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon. “I started training for this race back in November,” said the 27-year-old. Saturday’s race will be his first of 2015 and his main focus of the spring.
After a disappointing marathon debut of 2:14:25 in Eindhoven last autumn, Komon has put his marathon career on hold. “For now I will concentrate on the half marathon distance,” he said. “I want to find out what is possible for me in this event.”
“On Saturday I want to improve my time,” he added. “It is my goal to run something below 59 minutes.”
While the current world-leading time is 59:20, the course record in Prague stands at 58:47, set by Ethiopia’s Atsedu Tsegay in 2012.
A victory in Prague would further strengthen Komon’s status as one of the finest road runners in the world, but he will face high-class opposition.
Among them is fellow Kenyan Geoffrey Ronoh, who caused major upsets last year when he won the Mattoni Olomouc Half Marathon and the Birell Prague Grand Prix 10km.
Ronoh sustained a back and hip problem during the Egmond Half Marathon in January, where he dropped out. “But I got good treatment and was able to resume training relatively quickly,” he said. “Maybe my form is not yet quite as good as in 2014, but I realised during my final training sessions before coming here that my shape is fine.”
After losing her passport and not being able to get a visa in time, two-time world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat was unable to travel to Prague. In her absence, Kenyan compatriot Lucy Kabuu takes centre stage.
With a personal best of 1:06:09, Kabuu is among the fastest half-marathon runners ever. Kabuu showed fine form earlier this year, when she finished third at the Dubai Marathon with 2:20:21.
“After Dubai I took a week off and then started training again,” said Kabuu. “Unfortunately I lost my father last month which has affected my training.”
If Kabuu is not at her best, it will simply make the race more competitive. Fellow Kenyan Lineth Chepkirui, four times a top-12 finisher at the World Cross Country Championships, is among her rivals. The 27-year-old has a PB of 1:07:47.
Also in the field is a trio of talented Ethiopians, comprising 2014 Lisbon Half Marathon winner Worknesh Degefa, 2013 Marrakech Half Marathon champion Waganesh Mekasha and the in-form Yebrqual Melese, who won the Houston Marathon earlier this year with a PB of 2:23:23 and recently won the Paris Half Marathon.
Croatia's Lisa Nemec (nee Stublic), who has broken the national record in each of the past five years, leads the European challengers. In her most recent half marathon, she reduced her best to 1:09:16.
Local hopes will be pinned on young Czech talent Anezka Drahotova, the world junior 10,000m race walk champion. The 19-year-old set a national junior record of 1:14:25 in this race last year, but she is coming off the back of two 20km race walk competitions this month.
Jorg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF
Elite field (with PBs)
Leonard Komon (KEN) 59:14
Peter Kirui (KEN) 59:22
Azmeraw Bekele (ETH) 59:39
Geoffrey Ronoh (KEN) 59:45
Daniel Wanjiru (KEN) 59:58
Amanuel Mesel (ERI) 1:00:10
Nicholas Kipkemboi (KEN) 1:00:11
Samson Gebreyohannes (ERI) 1:00:13
Adugna Takele (ETH) 1:00:15
Cuthbert Nyasango (ZIM) 1:00:26
Bernard Bett (KEN) 1:00:46
Atalay Yirsaw (ETH) 1:00:59
Wilfred Murgor (KEN) 1:01:02
Nicholas Bor (KEN) 1:01:03
Teshome Mekonen (ETH) 1:01:21
Josphat Kiptis (KEN) 1:01:30
Joel Kimutai (KEN) 1:01:39
Josphat Menjo (KEN) 1:01:42
Lucy Kabuu (KEN) 1:06:09
Lineth Chepkurui (KEN) 1:07:47
Worknesh Degefa (ETH) 1:07:49
Waganesh Mekasha (ETH) 1:08:48
Yebrqual Melese (ETH) 1:09:03
Lisa Nemec (CRO) 1:09:16
Diane Nukuri (BDI) 1:09:12
Afera Godfay (ETH) 1:09:52
Alamz Negede (ETH) 1:10:00
Mame Feyisa (ETH) 1:10:08