Former World half-marathon champion Wilson Kiprop and defending champion Philemon Limo top the bill at the 39th edition of the Roma-Ostia Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, held on Sunday (3).
Kiprop, with his 59:15 PB set in Berlin last year, is the fastest man in the star-studded field. The Kenyan, who excels in a range of distances and terrains from the track to the roads and cross country, came to the fore in 2008 when he won the Italian cross-country race at Vallagarina and repeated his win in this race the following year.
His best year was 2010 when he made his debut in the Marathon in Prague, clocking 2:09:09, and notched up victories over 10,000m at the Kenyan Championships and the African Championships, both held at altitude in Nairobi.
Over the Half-marathon distance Kiprop won two top races in Paris (61:26) and Lille (with his then PB of 59:34) before winning the World Half Marathon gold medal in Nanning, breaking the four-year unbeaten streak of Eritrea’s defending champion Zersenay Tadese.
When starting out in athletics, Kiprop chose to run the 10,000m because he was used to running a similar distance to and from school. After leaving school, Kiprop travelled to Eldoret to seek manual jobs and was hired as a labourer at a construction site.
“Even then, I never stopped training,” he said. “I woke up at 5:30am and trained for two hours before reporting to work at 8am.”
On Sunday morning Kiprop will take on defending champion Philemon Limo, who returns to the Italian capital one year after taking the honours in an outstanding 59:32, smashing the course record by 26 seconds.
In 2011 Limo finished seventh at the World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria and went on to win the Prague Half Marathon in 59:30. He returned to the Czech capital last year and successfully defended his title, running 60:03. A few weeks later he made his Marathon debut in the same city, finishing third in 2:09:25.
Limo’s younger brother Kiprop Limo, who finished third in this race last year in 59:55 on his debut at the distance, also returns.
The second-fastest runner in the field is Titus Masai, who clocked 59:51 in Ras al-Khaimah in 2010. Others to watch out for are Robert Chemosin, who clocked 60:03 at the 2012 Udine Half Marathon, Willy Mwangi (PB 60:07), Simon Cheprot (PB 61:07) and Jafred Kipchumba, winner of the 2011 Eindhoven Marathon with an impressive 2:05:48.
Stefano La Rosa, who won the Italian Half-marathon title at last year’s Roma-Ostia, Simone Gariboldi and Giovanni Gualdi will carry the Italian hopes.
Kiprop seeking redemption in women’s race
Agnes Kiprop, who finished second in Rome-Ostia last year with an outstanding 67:22, returns to the Italian capital looking to improve on that result.
She will square off against Lydia Cheromei, the 2004 World Half-marathon silver medallist, and Dutchwoman Hilda Kibet, the 2008 European cross-country champion with a Half-marathon PB of 68:39.
The line-up also features Kenyan Filomena Daniel, who has a 68:44 PB, and Half-marathon debutante Degefa Debele of Ethiopia, winner of this year’s Campaccio Cross Country.
The best Italian runner in the field is Rosaria Console, who won the Roma-Ostia in 2005 with 69:34 and boasts a Marathon PB of 2:26:10, set in Berlin in 2011.
No less than 12,000 runners will take part in the popular Roma Ostia non-competitive race.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF