Paul Kosgei wins World Half Marathon (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 25 September 2003 – Monte

The World Half Marathon – from the distance running past into the future

MonteCarloThe 12th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, which takes place in Vilamoura, Portugal on Saturday 4 October, will be the last of the prestigious World Athletics Series events of 2003, but also a distance running spectacle which have aptly been described as the “The World Championships of the Road.”

The description came from the lips of Britain’s Paula Radcliffe who will be bidding for a third gold medal in these championships after wins in 2000 and 2001, and is also in the sort of form that could see her establish a new World Best for the distance. If successful, the 29 year-old would equal the feat of just one other athlete Tegla Loroupe, though the Kenyan’s triple triumph will took place in consecutive years (1997, 1998 and 1999).

The World Half Marathon Championships has an illustrious history as denoted by the roll call of champions since the inaugural event in 1992. Along with Radcliffe and Loroupe, the women’s title has also fallen to Britain’s Liz McColgan, who won on home turf in the opening edition, and was the 1991 World 10,000m gold medallist. The newly crowned World champion over 25 laps of the track, Ethiopia’s Berhane Adere, is also the current holder of the World Half Marathon title.

South Africa’s Elana Meyer who took first place in 1994, and established three world bests over the Half Marathon during a career that continues still is another of the distance running greats to have prospered in the women’s competition.

Defending champion Paul Kosgei of Kenya will head an exceptionally strong Kenyan men’s line-up in Vilamoura which also includes World Cross Country silver medallist Patrick Ivuti. They will be bidding to retain their team title and take an eighth men’s squad gold in this event.

As in the women’s event, to read through the list of the men’s race winners is to re-encounter so many star names. The victories of Khalid Skah of Morocco (1994) who was the 1992 Olympic 10,000m champion and Kenyan Moses Tanui (1995), himself  the 1991 World 10,000m gold medallist, are still memorable, while the names of  Paul Tergat (1999 and 2000) and Haile Gebrselassie (2001) need no further introduction.

Vilamoura promises another gathering of the world’s elite on a flat course which invites fast times, and with Road World Bests becoming official IAAF World Road Records as of 1 January 2004, Vilamoura is set to offer another attraction.