From left: UK Athletics Chairman Ed Warner, Zersenay Tadese, IAAF Ambassador Wilson Kipketer, and IAAF General Secretary Pierre Weiss at the pre-champs press conference in Birmingham (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 10 October 2009 – Birmingham, UK

IAAF Press Conference – World Half Marathon Championships

Birmingham, UKThere was prerace drama ahead of tomorrow's IAAF / EDF Energy World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham, when three of the main medal contenders, Mary Keitany, Sammy Kitwara and Dathan Ritzenhein, were stuck for nearly an hour in the lift of the REP Theatre, which is being used as the press centre for the event, so preventing them appearing at the official IAAF Press Conference.

Thankfully all were eventually freed but after their exhausting ordeal they returned immediately to the athletes hotel.

Reigning World champion Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea was more fortunate because arriving a few minutes late missed being caught in the incident and speaking at the conference was very upbeat about winning a fourth successive title.

Tadese the World 10,000m silver medallist behind Kenenisa Bekele in August, said: "I am going  to run hard to win.”
"I have won for the last three years. After Berlin I started preparing for this race because it is important for me and tomorrow I will try to win again."

The Eritrean adamant he will not underestimate the opposition and contesting his first half marathon this year, added: "I was really happy with my performance in Berlin but I think for tomorrow I'm going to have to work hard to win."

Tadese who has a Spanish coach and manager, revealed: "I have prepared in Eritrea because it is high altitude and sometimes in Spain."
He insisted despite dropping out of the London Marathon in April on his debut over the distance, it has not affected his future career plans.

"Yes, I will still run on the track and in road races. (But) for the future I am going to run the marathon."
Tadese explained: "For the London Marathon (in April) I had problems after the World Cross Country (in March). One week before London I was sick.”

"Now tomorrow is important, the half marathon is a way forward."

Tadese who will spearhead his country's challenge for a team medal, added: "Yes it's possible but every country will be ready for this competition. But we'll see if the team is ready.”
Earlier IAAF General Secretary Pierre Weiss announced there would be a review of the future of the World Half Marathon Championships by the IAAF Road Running Commission at a meeting which will be held after tomorrow's race.

"We are not pleased with the participation and number of athletes and our federations in this competition," Weiss said with less than 50 countries taking part.

"We must open our eyes and speak with the experts and listen…. The debate is open and the matter will be discussed at our next IAAF Council meeting in November."

Although the championships offer US$245,000 dollars in prize money, “we do not offer what the top athletes receive for competing in world top marathons."

IAAF Ambassador Wilson Kipketer, the retired holder of the World 800 metres record discussing the massive divide in standards between African athletes and other global areas, provided an enlightened opinion.

The Kenyan now a Danish citizen, said:  "What ought we to do in Europe? We have the facilities but what we are missing is the right attitude.”

"The thing is how to use the things we have. So maybe that's the problem - we're (Europe) using them the wrong way.”

"Many argue we have to go train in high mountains - but that's not what we need.”
"Most European athletes train hard but they need to compete more in head-to-heads so they can get confident running against someone who is faster than them. They will become more confident by racing and winning."

"I think it is more a psychological problem about training at altitude. They (Europeans) are running the mileage but they want to train at altitude and go to Kenya and train for one week."

Kipketer suggesting this could be wrong insisted: "But they are not training properly or timing and planning their seasons properly."

Ed Warner UK Athletics chairman whose federation hosted a highly successful endurance conference on Friday, expanded on the debate.

Warner stressing current trends can be reversed said: "I'm shaking my head. Ian Stewart's (UKA's endurance coach) philosophy would be that hard work has to be at the core of any athlete wanting to succeed against the African runners and that's something that needs bringing to the party.”
"If you look at the women’s side, we have in Great Britain two of the world’s greatest marathon runners (Paula Radcliffe and Mara Yamauchi).”

"If you look at middle distance in Berlin (World championships) we won two medals (Jenny Meadows 800m bronze, Lisa Dobriskey 1500m silver).”

"So we're certainly not defeatist. If you look at the common theme across those four athletes they're all incredibly hard workers. There is no substitute for the hard work.”
"What Ian is bringing to the table is hard work. There arre some other things we should be doing such as collective training at altitude not just British training groups but multi national training groups.”

"Maybe we've been so insular. I think you'll see the benefits over time.  The Americans are paving the way. There isn't a defeatist spirit.”

Dave Martin for the IAAF