World champion Mary Keitany of Kenya and Tilahun Regassa of Ethiopia produced fast victories at the Zayed International Half Marathon, held yesterday (7 Jan) in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Keitany, who cruised to the world title over the distance in Birmingham last autumn, dominated the proceedings clocking 1:07:14, more than two minutes clear of her nearest rival.
Regassa, who will celebrate his 20th birthday on 18 January, clocked 59:19, bettering his 59:36 career best set two years ago. Only World record holder Samuel Wanjiru has run faster while younger than 20 with his 59:16 in Rotterdam in 2005, at the time a World record.
Keitany, who set an African record of 1:06:36 at the World championships in October, had already built a solid field by 10 kilomtres, reaching the marker in 31:15, some 50 seconds ahead of her closest pursuers, a chase pack led by her compatriot Philes Ongori, the World silver medallist.
Keitany closed with a time of 1:07:14, incredibly the slowest performance of her last four half marathons, but still the 10th fastest performance of all-time. Keitany produced five of the 10 fastest runs ever over the distance.
In a very competitive final, Ongori crossed the line in second place with a time of 1:09:16, followed by 2008 Boston Marathon champion Dire Tune, who clocked 1:09:19.
In the men's race, Regassa pushed the pace from the start and crossed 10 kilometres in 28:14, ahead of Sammy Kitwara, the fastest man in the field with a 58:58 PB, the fourth time ever. With one kilometre to go Regassa made a strong move to clinch the victory. Kitwara Held on for second in 59:34.
Another little-known Ethiopian, Lelisa Benti, broke the one hour wall by just one second (59:59) to finish third while another five men ran under 61 minutes.
The race started at 3:30 pm in windy but war conditions, with the temperature at 25 C.
"If they would have started just a couple of hour later, both world records could have been broken," said Italian manager Gianni Demadonna.