(06-Oct) -- Zersenay Tadese and Meseret Hailu won today's 20th IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships in Kavarna, Bulgaria, in very warm, sunny and humid conditions. For Tadese of Eritrea, it was his fifth world half-marathon or road running title (he first won in 2006), and for Hailu, an Ethiopian, it was her first.
With a time of 60:19, Tadese, 30, crushed the field, beating second place Deressa Chimsa of Ethiopia by 32 seconds. Tadese was near the back of a 31-man lead pace at 5-K (14:22), led by Kenya's Philemon Limo and Eliud Kipchoge. But over the next five kilometers, Tadese asserted himself and hit the 10-K mark in 28:05 with a 7-second lead over Limo. From that point his lead continued to widen. He had nearly half a minute on his nearest challenger by 15-K and was able to cruise in to the finish.
"I’m very happy to win here," Tadese told the IAAF. "Two years ago I was second because I had a knee injury. So it's good to be back on top."
Second place Chimsa, who clocked 1:00:51 at the finish, ran a smart race. He was running in fifth place at 10-K, moved up to fourth by 15-K (8 seconds out of a medal position), and by 20-K had a solid hold on second place. Third position went to Kenya's John Mwangangi in 1:01:01, and Kenya won the team title in 3:03:52 over Eritrea (3:04:41) and Ethiopia (3:05:43). The USA finished fourth.
Women's champion Hailu had a much tougher battle for the gold. She ran at the back of a six-woman lead pack through 5-K (16:14) with Kenya's Paskalia Chepkorir Kipkoech, Lydia Cheromei and Pauline Njeri, and Ethiopian compatriots Feyse Tadese and Emebt Etea. The pack stayed together through 10-K (32:21), but Njeri and Etea fell back before the 15-K mark (48:51). The four women were dead-even through 20-K, and Hailu squeaked out a one-second win in the final sprint over Tadese in 1:08:55. Chepkorir Kipkoech was third in 1:09:04.
"I am very happy for me and my country," Hailu told IAAF interviewers. "It was a very hard race, the temperatures were very hot."
Ethiopia won the women's team title in 3:27:52 over Kenya (3:28:39). Japan, whose top finisher Tomomi Tanaka was only 8th, got the bronze.
It was a tough day for Olympic bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan of the USA. She had hoped to contend for a medal, but by the 10-K mark she was more than a minute behind the leaders. She finished 25th in 1:14:41 and, was clearly affected by the heat.
"Shalane looking like heatstroke or like," tweeted ING New York City Marathon race director Mary Wittenberg who was in Kavarna to watch the race. "Ran with cold. Ran really tough in circumstances."