Ethiopia’s Rahma Tusa and Eritrea’s Hiskel Tewelde took the top honours at the Boulogne-Billancourt Christian Grangier Half-Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race, on Sunday (19).
Tusa notched her first success over 13.1 miles in what was her second attempt at the distance. She improved her personal best to 1:08:29, taking almost four minutes from her previous best of 1:12:21 set in 2015. Her win, however, wasn’t a surprise after retaining her Rome Marathon title earlier this year and clocking a 10,000m PB of 31:05:14.
She broke off from the rest of the field at the outset and dictated a swift tempo, hitting the five-kilometre mark in 15:28, twelve seconds ahead of Kenya’s Parendis Lakapana.
Tusa maintained a steady pace as Lakapana managed to catch her Ethiopian opponent over the next few kilometres. The duo reached the 10-kilometre checkpoint in 31:56 before Tusa again ramped up the pace. She built a small gap over her challenger, going through the 15-kilometre mark in 48:21, 10 seconds ahead of Lakapana, who was the fastest woman of the field based on PBs.
Tusa then extended her lead to 29 seconds at the 20-kilometre mark and broke the tape in 1:08:29, taking 57 seconds off the previous course record set by Firehiwot Dado back in 2009.
“I’m very happy with this win and this personal best” said the 24-year-old.
Lakapana came home second in 1:09:13 to take 33 seconds off her PB, while Kenya’s Josephine Chepkoech rounded out the podium in 1:09:47.
Tewelde takes well-timed triumph
The men’s race was more competitive than the women’s, and the sunny and cool conditions at the beginning of the race suggested that the course record of 1:00:11 set by Franklin Chepwony in 2013 could had been in jeopardy.
A close battle was expected between Kenyan duo Albert Kangogo and Geoffrey Yegon, the two fastest men in the field and the only ones with a sub-60-minute PB. They had five other men for company in the early lead pack as the seven runners, spearheaded by Kenya’s 1:03:14 man Elias Kiptoo, passed the five-kilometre mark in 14:33, a pace well outside what was necessary to break the course record.
The group slowed slightly over the next five-kilometre section, hitting the 10-kilometre checkpoint in 29:16. There were still seven runners in contention for the victory including Kangogo, Yegon, Kiptoo, South Africa’s Precious Mashele, Eritrea’s Hiskel Tewelde and Aferwerki Birhane as well as Birhan Nebebew of Ethiopia.
Soon after the half-way point, both Tewelde and Berhane started to kick on at the front. They forged ahead with Nebebew and created a small gap over the rest of the group. Some 13 kilometres into the race, Kangogo and Yegon rejoined the leaders and the pace slowed again.
At 15 kilometres, reached in 43:48, Kangogo made a move but it wasn’t enough to shake off his opponents and the race eventually came down to a sprint between the five men.
Tewelde, who represented Eritrea over 5000m at last year’s Olympics and 10,000m at this year’s World Championships, showed his strength to pull off his first international half marathon victory in 1:01:13.
“Winning here gives me great satisfaction,” said the 31-year-old, who has a PB of 1:00:29. “It would have been great if some pacemakers could have been here to maintain a steady pace to run faster.”
Nebebew was a close second, just one second behind Tewelde as Berhane took third place in 1:01:17, taking off 55 seconds from his previous personal best.
Kangogo, who ran a PB of 59:25 in Copenhagen, placed fourth six seconds adrift the winner with Yegon fifth in 1:01:37 and Mashele sixth in 1:01:48.
Quentin Guillon for the IAAF
1 Hiskel Tewelde (ERI) 1:01:13
2 Birhan Nebebew (ETH) 1:01:14
3 Aferwerki Berhane (ERI) 1:01:17
4 Albert Kangogo (KEN) 1:01:19
5 Geoffrey Yegon (KEN) 1:01:37
1 Rahma Tusa (ETH) 1:08:29
2 Parendis Lakapana (KEN) 1:09:13
3 Josephine Chepkoech (KEN) 1:09:47
4 Juliet Chekwel (UGA) 1:15:05
5 Chadia Boumahdi (FRA) 1:15:19