Stanley Biwott and Sharon Cherop, the two favorites in the Rock 'n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, lived up to their advance billing today (16), winning their respective divisions easily. The Kenyans, both wearing bib No. 1, pulled away in the latter half of the 13.1-mile race and ran uncontested toward the finish line.
Biwott, 26, winner of the Paris Marathon in a sparkling 2:05:12 earlier this year and who ran a 59:44 Half Marathon in March, finished today’s race in 1:00:03, the third fastest time ever run in the 35-year-history of the race. Cherop, 28, winner of this year’s Boston Marathon and the Marathon bronze medallist at the 2011 World Championships, took the women’s event in 1:07:21, the second fastest time on U.S. soil behind only Kim Smith’s U.S. All Comers’ record of 1:07:11, set in Philadelphia in 2011.
Perhaps the reason neither Biwott nor Cherop came close to their career bests was the lack of opposition at the end. Paul Lonyongata, who trains with Biwott, was the men’s runner-up in 1:00:43. He said he was hampered by a left hamstring injury. Dathan Ritzenhein, a member of the U.S. Olympic team in the 10,000m, finished third in 1:00:57, the fastest by an American this year.
Mare Dibaba, who competed for Ethiopia in the London Games and is her country’s record-holder in the Half Marathon at 1:07:13, finished second at 1:07:44. Kenya’s Jemima Jelegat Sumgong was third in 1:08:39.
Biwott and the 19-year-old Lonyongata pulled away from the men’s field at four miles and ran stride for stride until mile eight. Then, Biwott surged and Lonyongata, running the Half Marathon for only the second time, was left far behind. After that, Biwott was in control and ran the remaining distance like he was going through a training run.
"I was testing myself," said Biwott, who will run in the New York City Marathon in November. "I didn’t have any problems. I think I have the speed to run well in New York. If someone had been with me, I might have been able to set a PR. It was a very nice course, very flat. And the weather was good."
"I was looking for my best time, but I didn’t hit it," said Longonyata, who made his U.S. debut and aimed to run close to 59 minutes or under. "I was feeling strong when Stanley passed me. But I also felt the injury."
Ritzenhein, running in Philadelphia for the first time since he was a high school senior in 2001, said he wasn’t sure what to expect because he is preparing for the 7 October Chicago Marathon. Ritzenhein found it difficult to keep up with the two leaders.
"They (the two Kenyans) broke away about 5K and I stayed in third place the rest of the way," Ritzenhein said. "I wanted to run a good, solid race, about a 4:35 or 4:40 pace. And that’s what I did. Training for the Marathon makes it so hard to respond to those fast miles, and I couldn’t. The first mile was slow. Then they took off. I ran 4:25 for the second mile, they ran 4:21. They were running fast miles and I couldn’t keep up."
Still, he was satisfied with his performance. "I’m very happy with today," the three-time Olympian said. "This gives me a lot of confidence and hopefully I can have a good run in Chicago. I want to be able to run 2:06 in Chicago." His Marathon best is 2:09:55, at the U.S. Olympic trials in January, when he finished fourth.
In the women’s competition, the top three finishers ran even for about the first 9.5 miles. Then, Cherop and Dibaba pulled away from Sumgong. By mile 11, Cherop was ahead by nine seconds and nearly doubled her advantage by mile 12.
Cherop, who also is prepping for the New York City Marathon, had finished fourth at Philadelphia in 2007. She said she was much more confident this time. "I knew I was going to win at 10 miles," she said.
The field of about 20,000 runners ran along a historic course that went past City Hall, along Market Street, alongside the Schuylkill River and ended at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The race has attracted some of the sport’s greatest runners in history and has produced five world records, three U.S. marks and numerous all-comers’ records. The race was run under ideal conditions, with the temperature at 58 degrees and no wind.
Organisers for the IAAF
Men - 1. Stanley Biwott, 26, Kenya, 1:00:03 2. Paul Lonyangata, 19, Kenya, 1:00:43 3. Dathan Ritzenhein, 29, Portland, OR, 1:00:57 4. El Hassan El Abbassi, 28, Morocco, 1:01:15 5. Eric Chichir, 28,Kenya, 1:02:31