Tadese wins in Prague

World half-marathon record-holder among the winners on busy weekend of international road racing

Zersenay Tadese out-sprints Amanuel Mesel in Prague

Organisers of this 15th edition of the Hervis Prague Half-marathon had made no secret of the fact they were hoping for a world record this year after Ethiopia’s Atsedu Tsegay ran 58:47 in 2012. After all, Zersenay Tadese, the world record-holder at 58:23, was in the field. Race hoardings even billed it as an official world record attempt.

However, though Tadese took victory to further confirm his status as the best half-marathoner of all time, his clocking was “only” 60:10. Instead it was the lesser Gladys Cherono who helped boost Prague’s reputation as one of the quickest halves in the world with a course record of 66:48.

Though three women went quicker in the Ras Al-Khaimah in February, Cherono’s time moved her to ninth on the all-time list. Although she has become known as a half-marathon specialist, winning six in twelve since 2004, her quickest time was 68:18, set when finishing third last year.

Last year she was hampered by a strong wind, but in today’s event it was the cold that presented the main obstacle, particularly for the Africans who prefer warmer weather. Temperatures were barely above freezing and a breeze which had formed overnight made it seem even colder. However, the course had only a few minor inclines, although some cobbled areas made it slightly trickier for the 12,5000 runners.

Cherono made short work of it, though, and the Kenyan was well ahead of Ethiopia’s Werknesh Degefa (68:12), who was arguably the pre-race favourite after her PB of 68:18 last month. Kenya’s Isabella Ochichi, the 33-year-old Olympic 5000m silver medallist, made a good return to action in her first serious race since 2006 with 69:21 for third.

On the men’s side, Tadese continued his consistent record in half-marathons. He has lost only two in his 14 at the distance since 2004 and his incredible CV includes five world half-marathon titles.

With three others in the field with a PB inside the hour and a debutant who was arguably his biggest rival, he knew he was to have his work cut out, though. The man who some thought could challenge him was his training partner, fellow Eritrean Teklemariam Medhin, who was third in the World Cross last month and seventh in the Olympic 10,000m last year.

But it was another of his training partners, Amanuel Mesel, who surprisingly pushed him all the way to the line and was given the same time.

They had been outside world record pace from early on and went through 10km in 28:13 and slowed slightly in the second half. In an exciting finish, five were still together into the final kilometre and it was Mesel who led and tried to pull away first. Tadese overtook and gained daylight in the final quarter-mile, but the result did not look secure until the very end.

They were six seconds ahead of Kenya’s John Kipsang, while Medhin failed to recover from a fall during the race and finished ninth with 61:55.

Tadese said in Prague that the marathon distance would be his long-term goal after this year’s World Championships 10,000m. Despite all his success at 13 miles, his marathon record is comprised of a DNF, a 2:12 and a 2:10.

On a busy weekend of road racing, the Paris Marathon on Sunday was won by Peter Some of Kenya in 2:05:38. The race, which enjoyed a record field of almost 39,000, also saw a women’s course record with Tadese Boru of Ethiopia clocking 2:21:06.

The Berlin Half-marathon produced fast times too. Kenya’s Jacob Kendagor (59:36) and Helah Kiprop (67:54) took the victories in cool temperatures ahead of 30,000 runners. Britain’s Sonia Samuels clocked 72:36.

Dejen Gebremeskel won the Carlsbad 5km in the United States on Sunday April 7 with Briton Jonny Mellor 10th in 14:04.

Also in the United States, Claire Hallissey continued her London Marathon build-up with a 55:51 time for 16th in the Cherry Blossom 10.

In Australia, Greg Rutherford jumped 8.10m (0.6) to beat Olympic silver medallist Mitchell Watt on his home turf on Saturday.

» Why has the best half-marathoner ever in the world failed to impress at 26 miles? See the April 11 issue of Athletics Weekly for the views of Tadese and his coach, Jeronimo Bravo.

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