Being the world's fastest man in the Marathon or the women’s World champion over the distance is not a guarantee to win a Half Marathon. Haile Gebrselassie and Catherine Ndereba learned that on a rainy and windy Saturday afternoon here in the Dutch city Den Haag (The Hague).
Kitwara out-sprints Gebrselassie
Gebrselassie had come to The Netherlands to recapture the World record he lost to Samuel Wanjiru. The Kenyan claimed the Half Marathon World record two years ago in Ras Al Kaihmah and bettered six week later at The Hague, running 58:33. On that same fast course Gebrselassie wanted to crack that time. The Ethiopian did not achieve his goal; moreover he was handed a rare defeat.
In the final metres on the Lange Voorhout, Gebrselassie was outsprinted by Kenyan Sammy Kitwara, who clocked a winning 59:47, one second ahead of the favorite. Another Ethiopian, Dereje Tesfaye, took third place fifteen seconds behind the winner.
Ndereba, the reigning World Marathon champion, also finished second. She was well behind compatriot Pauline Wangui, who clocked a winning 1:10:50. Ndereba finished in 1:11:35, ahead of Dutchwoman Ilse Pol who clocked 1:14:40 for third and to claim the Dutch Half Marathon title.
From the outset it was clear that there was no chance of breaking Wanjiru’s mark. A group of eight passed the first 5 kilometres in 14:12, which was already 32 seconds slower as the intermediate split in Wanjiru's race. In the lead group Martin Fagan of Ireland was taking on most of the pacing chores. The tall Irishman brought Gebrselassie, Kitwara, Tesfaje, Getu Feleke and the Kenyans Gilbert Okari and Gilbert Chepkwony through the 10 km point in 28:34, more than a minute slower than Wanjiru two years ago.
Between kilometres 10 and 15, Kitwara, Gebrselassie and Tesfaye were leading the dance. The tall Kitwara, like Gebrselassie, looked comfortable while Tesfaye was beginning to struggle. The three passed 15 kms in 42:41, well behind Wanjiru's World Record split of 41:30). Tesfaye then lost contact and the leading pair passed the 20-kilometre point in 56:47, making it clear that a final sprint should bring the decision.
About 400m from the finish line, Gebrselassie made his move. He produced a small gap but was overtaken by the stronger Kitawa who ran his first sub-60 minute Half Marathon. It was the seventh victory in a row for Kitwara.
Haile Gebrselassie took his defeat as a man. “This is not my type of weather but I lost to a very good athlete. I made the mistake to start my final sprint too early.”
Conversely, Kitwara was very happy. “I did beat a great champion,” he said.
In the women's race Wangui and Ndereba were much too fast for the rest of the field. Wangui, who scored her second victory in a week in The Netherlands after winning last Sunday’s 20 kilometres of Alphen aan den Rijn, and Ndereba were already far away after the first five kilometres.
The two ran together until just after 15 kilometres when Wangui broke away and finally out distanced here opponent by 45 seconds.
“It was cold,” Ndereba said afterwards. “I was happy to be back In The Hague after winning here eight years ago.”
“I’m very happy with this victory,” Wangui said.
Wim van Hemert for the IAAF
Leading Results -
Conditions: Light rain, windy, temp. 8 C.
1. Sammy Kitwara, Ken 59:47 (splits: 14:12-28:34-42:41-56:48) PB
2. Haile Gebrselassie, Eth 59:50
3. Dereje Tesfaye, Eth 1:00:02 PB
4. Getu Feleke, Eth 1:00:36 PB
5. Martin Fagan, Irl 1:00:57 PB
6. Phillimon Terer, Ken 1:01:25 PB
7. Gilbert Okari, Ken 1:01:26 PB
8. Gilbert Chepkwony, Ken 1:02:36 PB
9. Patrick Stitzinger, Ned 1:02:43 PB (national champion)
10. Simon Bairu, Can 1:03:10 PB
11. Erick Kigen, Ken 1:04:09 PB
12. Daaby Badhaso, Eth 1:04:14
13. Paul Lekura, Ken 1:04:41
14. Gary Thornton, Irl 1:04:42
15. Oystein Sylta, Nor 1:04:43 PB
1. Pauline Wangui, Ken 1:10:50 (splits: 16:42-33:30-50:25-1:07:12)
2. Catherine Ndereba, Ken 1:11:35
3. Ilse Pol, Ned 1:14:40 (national champion)
4. Christina Bus Holth, Nor 1:15:38 PB
5. Inge de Jong, Ned 1:16:12 PB
6. Saskia van Vugt, Ned 1:16:12 (correct)