Hot sunny weather (23 C) at the start of yesterday’s Dead Sea Half Marathon (17) prevented any chance of breaking the course records currently held by Kenya’s Gilbert Koech (1:03.35 – 2001), and by Holland's Lornah Kiplagat (1:11:21 – 2000, then a Kenyan).
A wind blowing from the desert made conditions even harder for the almost 2000 runners from 12 countries and UN Forces on the course which is situated 398m below sea level.
Ethiopians 20-year-old Nile Admasu Gebre and Dagne Balcha Kalkidan were eventual winners with 1:06:52 and 1:18:07 respectively.
The pack of six runners led by Kenya’s Stanley Kibet Kessio set the pace from the start leaving Gebre, the eventual winner, some 60 metres behind by the fifth kilometers, passing it in 14:48. The rest of the pack which consisted several Israeli runners, Asaf Bimro, Zavadia Wudege, Pastau Sonah, though of Ethiopian origin, and 21-year-old Ethiopian Yonas Nagatu, fell 150 metres behind Gebre.
At 10km kilometre the leader was timed at 30:24, while the pack passed that marker in 30:50.
After the turn around point the athletes were confronted with a head wind and 3km elevation, but neither could prevent Gebre from narrowing the gap with Kessio. He eventually took the lead and quickly left him almost 300 metres behind at the 17km point.
By 18km, Asaf Bimro made a brave surge leaving the rest of the chasing pack and overtaking Stanley Kilbert Kessio to finish second.
The women’s race was less dramatic. Young Ethiopian runner Dagne Balcha Kalkidan led from the start followed by Israeli marathon champion Nili Avramsky, last year’s winner, who was running the race for the 16th time, and Israeli Svetlana Bahmand, 30, who won the 10km race at Dead Sea Half Marathon in 2006. By the 10km mark, which Kalkidan passed in 17:38, Avramski fell 150 metres behind her, and her attempt at a counter attack by the 13km never was to her benefit.
Kalkidan won with 1:18:07 and Avramski finished 43 seconds later, with Bahmand third, completing her second half marathon with a 1:19:39 personal best.
Yelena Kurdyumova and Sergey Porada for IAAF
1. Nile Admasu Gebre ETH 1:06:52
2. Asaf Bimro ISR 1:08:08
3. Zavadia Wudege ISR 1:08:52
4. Dastau Sonah ISR 1:09:00
5. Stanley Kibet Kessio KEN 1:09:08
1. Dagne Balcha Kalkidan ETH 1:18:07
2. Nili Avramski ISR 1:18:50
3. Svetlana Bahmand ISR 1:19:39
4. Orna Blau ISR 1:26:47
5. Loris Mendelovich ISR 1:28:37