Zersenay Tadese won his fifth gold medal at the World Half Marathon Championships in Kavarna while Meseret Hailu surprises in the women’s race
The World Half-Marathon Championships to Zersenay Tadese is what the World Cross Country Championships is to Kenenisa Bekele. The Eritrean proved it again today as he won his fifth World Half gold medal in hot conditions in Kavarna.
The decisive factor in determining the outcome was Tadese’s second 5km of 13:43 which splintered the sizeable leading group. At 5km in 14:22, the leading thirty athletes were covered by four seconds but 1:47 now separated the first thirty runners at 10km as Tadese surged through in 28:05.
Tadese kept the pressure on as he passed 15km in 42:16 which meant he covered the previous 10km in a very respectable 27:54. His advantage had stretched from eight seconds at 10km to 29 seconds at 15km over Pius Kirop from Kenya.
Even though the former four-time champion slowed through 20km in 57:11, Tadese’s lead had stretched to 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian marathoner Deresse Chimsa while Kirop dropped back to third.
After suffering his first half-marathon defeat since 2003 in the last edition of this race in 2010, Tadese confirmed he’s still almost unbeatable over 13.1 miles as he claimed his fifth gold medal in a winning time of 60:19.
Chimsa, a sub-2:06 marathoner, claimed Ethiopia’s first individual medal in this race since 2001 with silver in a PB of 60:51 while John Mwangangi overhauled a tiring Kirop for the bronze medal.
With four runners in the top six, Kenya took some consolation by winning the team race from Eritrea and Ethiopia.
The Kenyans arrived with the fastest athletes on paper in the women’s race but the Ethiopians, as was also the common theme during the Olympics, prevailed over their Rift Valley rivals with a one-two.
Pasalia Kipkoech started as the arguable pre-event favourite on the basis of a recent 67:17 PB and the former world youth silver medallist controlled the pace for much of the contest. But after an opening 10km of 32:21 (68:15 half-marathon tempo), the pace started to slow which gave confidence to the other contenders in the lead pack.
A group of five athletes passed through 15km in 48:51 (68:42 half-marathon pace) but tellingly, Kipkoech surrendered the lead for the first time in the race through 20km in 65:41. A 16:50 split – by far the slowest of the race – was evidence Kipkoech was feeling the strain.
Feysa Tadese, fourth in the last edition of the race in 2010, was the first to push on and she was joined by her lesser known team-mate Meseret Hailu. The latter proved to have the better finishing speed as she forged to the front in the final 200m.
It looked like Tadese might have timed her effort the better but Hailu held on to claim the title in a PB of 68:55. Her winning margin of one second was the smallest in the history of these championships and she became just the second Ethiopian winner of this title after Berhane Adere’s initial triumph a decade ago.
While she might not be a household name, Hailu had some pedigree despite a modest 71:18 PB as she defeated Florence Kiplagat at the start of the year in the Egmond aan Zee half-marathon.
Kipkoech came away with bronze in 69:04 ahead of team-mate Lydia Cheromei in 69:13. Emebet Etea rounded off the top-five in a PB of 70:01 to ensure Ethiopia also took top honours in the team race.
British duo Gemma Steel and Caryl Jones both delivered stellar performances and they were the only European finishers in the top-10. Steel was the first non-African finisher in seventh in 71:09 while Jones, on her international debut, was tenth in 71:52.
In temperatures which hovered around 30C, both athletes were only marginally shy of their respective PBs of 70:46 and 71:18 set in the Great North Run last month.
After the race, Steel commented: “I enjoyed it, I timed it to perfection with the sprint. I ran it differently to usual, I didn’t chase a time but raced it. I settled in with Caryl and managed to chase the two Japanese runners down at the end.”
Susan Partridge finished 22nd in 73:55 to help Britain to fourth in the team race.