Zersenay Tadesse leads the field in Udine (© Getty Images)
One month from now, the IAAF/Cardiff University World Half Marathon Championships Cardiff 2016 will be welcoming the world’s top road runners, some of whom will have the opportunity to establish themselves among the all-time greats of the event.
In the 24-year history of the event, no athlete has been more successful than Zersenay Tadese. The Eritrean won four successive individual titles between 2006 and 2009, settled for silver in 2010 and then returned to the top of the podium in 2012 to take his fifth individual gold medal.
Although he missed an individual medal two years ago in Copenhagen, he still collected another gold medal as Eritrea won the team competition. It brought his World Half Marathon Championships medal tally to 13, six of which are gold.
Only one other man, Kenya’s 1999 and 2000 winner Paul Tergat, has won more than one individual title at the World Half Marathon Championships. Including team medals, Tergat and compatriot Moses Tanui each have four gold medals.
If Geoffrey Kamworor successfully defends his title in Cardiff, he would join Tadese and Tergat as just the third man to win back-to-back titles at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.
Three women have each won a trio of world half-marathon titles.
Kenya’s Tegla Loroupe was the first to achieve the feat, winning successive titles in 1997, 1998 and 1999. Adding in her three team titles, her 1993 individual bronze and 1997 team silver, Loroupe is the most successful woman in the history of the championships.
Marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe succeeded Loroupe as the world half-marathon champion in 2000 before going on to win again in 2001 and 2003. Her 2001 winning time of 1:06:47 broke Loroupe’s championship record from 1997.
After taking silver in 2005, Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands went one better in 2006 when the event was renamed the IAAF World Road Running Championships. Held over 20km, Kiplagat took gold in a world record of 1:03:21.
She followed it with another gold in 2007, setting a championship record of 1:06:25 with the distance having returned to the half marathon, and triumphed again in 2008.
The Kenyan team for this year’s edition features the winners from 2009, 2010 and 2014: Mary Keitany, Florence Kiplagat and Gladys Cherono, respectively. Like their compatriot Kamworor in the men’s race, they each have a good chance of joining the exclusive club of multiple winners at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.
Unsurprisingly, Kenya is the most successful nation in the history of the event. With 40 gold medals, 21 silver and 16 bronze, their overall medal haul of 77 is more than the combined total of the next two top nations, Ethiopia (43) and Japan (22).
And all three of those countries could add to their medal tallies in Cardiff on 26 March.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF