Edith Masai en route to her 1:07:16 victory in the 2006 Berlin Half Marathon (© Victah Sailer)
MonteCarloWhen assessing the possibility for fast distance running performances at any championship, arguably you couldn’t find two more distinguished names than Haile Gebrselassie and Paula Radcliffe as the World record incumbents. The Ethiopian and Briton respectively hold the men’s and women’s World records for 20km, the distance at which the inaugural IAAF World Road Running Championships, Debrecen, Hungary will be staged on Sunday 8 October 2006.
However, while Gebrselassie’s 55:48, set earlier this year (15 Jan), and Radcliffe’s 1:03:26 established en route to winning the World Half Marathon title in 2001 (6 Oct), are formidable figures to challenge, and neither athlete will compete (Radcliffe – on maternity leave; Gebrselassie – ran the Berlin Marathon only two weekend’s ago), Hungary’s second city can still expect some exceptionally fast times to be recorded on its streets.
"Very flat with broad turns"
Back in July Kenya’s Tegla Loroupe, the World Half Marathon champion on three occasions (1997, 1998, 1999), tested the 5km loop course on which both 20km championship races will be contested in Debrecen, and assessed it as exceptionally fast.
“The course is very nice, very flat with broad turns. I believe that outstanding times can be achieved here during the World Road Running Championships.”
Asian and African record holders
The line-up of swift performers also denotes fast finishing times next weekend.
The women’s race contains both the Asian and African record holders, respectively Kayoko Fukushi of Japan – 1:03:41 – and Kenyan Edith Masai – 1:03:52. Both these Area records were set this year and are currently the fastest times of 2006 for 20km. Fukushi ran her figures in the process of taking victory in the Marugame Half Marathon (67:26 Area Rec) on 5 February, and Masai’s performance was notched-up while winning the Berlin Half Marathon (67:16) on the 2 April.
Also in scintillating form is the Netherlands’ Lornah Kiplagat (1:03:54, 20km PB – 2001) who won the Dam to Dam (Ten Miles) race from Amsterdam to Zaandam on 17 September in 50:50, bettering her world’s fastest ever clocking (22 Sep 2002) by four seconds.
Habitually strong line-up
The fastest athlete in the men’s field is Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadesse who won the Rotterdam Half Marathon on 10 September in 59:16, the fourth fastest time ever run for the distance. On the way to which triumph he produced a 20km split of 56:17, the third fastest-time ever recorded.
And among the habitually strong Kenyan line-up for the championships, we have two men who on the basis of their fastest are in the form to give the Eritrean a high paced challenge. Robert Kipchumba came second to Tadesse in Rotterdam (56:21), while Wilfred Taragon was third in Berlin on 2 April (57:34), respectively the fifth and sixth fastest athletes of 2006.
So Debrecen, which hosted a most successful edition of the World Youth Championships in 2001, can undoubtedly look forward to some fast exciting times on its streets this weekend.
Chris Turner for the IAAF
NB. Full preview stories for both the men’s and women’s races will be published later this week