The women's race at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships (© Getty Images)
With little more than a week to go to the 2014 IAAF/AL-Bank World Half Marathon Championships in the Danish capital of Copenhagen on 29 March, we take a look at some of the key contenders, as well as some of the more interesting entrants.
This will be the 21st edition of the championships (including the two editions that were renamed the ‘IAAF World Road Running Championships’) and Denmark is the 16th country to host the World Half Marathon Championships.
The event is being held in Scandinavia for just the second time ever, 20 years after Oslo hosted it. It’s also just the second time in the history of the championships that it is being held in spring. Brussels in 2002 was the only other World Half Marathon Championships that was held at this time of year.
No story on the World Half Marathon Championships would be complete without a mention of five-time winner Zersenay Tadese. The Eritrean is the most decorated athlete in the history of the championships, having won 12 medals, five of them gold.
On the all-time medals table for the event, if Tadese were entered as a separate nation, he’d rank fourth behind only Kenya, Ethiopia and Romania.
Tadese will be in Copenhagen next weekend, looking for an unprecedented sixth gold medal in what will be a record ninth appearance at the championships. If he makes it on to the podium, he would become the oldest ever men’s individual medallist at the World Half Marathon Championships.
Seven teams – Spain, Ethiopia, France, Japan, Kenya, Romania and USA – will continue their record in Copenhagen as ‘ever presents’ at the World Half Marathon Championships, having contested every edition of the event since the inaugural championships in 1992.
No fewer than 150 teams have taken part across the past 19 editions of the World Half Marathon Championships. Saudi Arabia will this year be making their first appearance at the event, with two athletes entered in the men’s race.
Host team Denmark will be keen to perform well in front of their home crowd and for the first time they are fielding full teams for both the men’s and women’s races.
Denmark’s best ever individual finish was Jan Ikov’s 10th place in the men’s race in 1993, while their best team placing was 12th in 2012.
Three of the five athletes who represented Denmark in 2012 feature on this year’s team, including European under-23 10,000m bronze medallist Abdi Hakin Ulad. The team also includes eight-time national champion Morten Munkholm and Olympians Jesper Faurschou and Jess Draskau-Petersson.
At 49 years of age, Iceland’s Martha Ernsdottir is set to become the oldest ever competitor at the World Half Marathon Championships. But she isn’t the only quadragenarian in the race, or even on her team, as 42-year-old compatriot Helen Olafsdottir will also be representing Iceland.
But not all of the Icelandic team are veterans as 19-year-old Ingvar Hjartson is entered for the men’s race. He’s not quite the youngest athlete set to compete in Copenhagen, though. That honour belongs to Eritrea’s 18-year-old Ghirmay Ghebreslassie. And with a 1:00:09 personal best, he could even challenge for a medal.
Other notable entrants include two of the Estonian Luik triplets, Liina and Leila.
Previews of the men’s and women’s races will be published online next week.
Men: 58:23 Zersenay Tadese (ERI) Lisbon 2010
Women: 1:06:25 Lornah Kiplagat (NED) Udine 2007 (women-only)
1:05:12 Florence Kiplagat (KEN) Barcelona 2014 (mixed race, subject to usual ratification procedure)
Men: 58:59 Zersenay Tadese (ERI) Udine 2007
Women: 1:06:25 Lornah Kiplagat (NED) Udine 2007
Men’s team: 2:58:54 (KEN) Udine 2007
Women’s team: 3:22:30 (KEN) Birmingham 2009
Area records – men
Africa: 58:23 Zersenay Tadese (ERI) Lisbon 2010
Asia: 1:00:25 Atsushi Sato (JPN) Udine 2007
Europe: 59:52 Fabian Roncero (ESP) Berlin 2001
North, Central America and the Caribbean: 59:43 Ryan Hall (USA) Houston 2007
Oceania: 1:00:56 Collis Birmingham (AUS) Marugame 2013
South America: 59:33 Marilson dos Santos (BRA) Udine 2007
Area records – women
Africa: 1:05:12 Florence Kiplagat (KEN) Barcelona 2014
Asia: 1:07:26 Kayoko Fukushi (JPN) Marugame 2006
Europe: 1:06:25 Lornah Kiplagat (NED) Udine 2007
North, Central America and the Caribbean: 1:07:34 Deena Kastor (USA) Berlin 2006
Oceania: 1:07:11 Kim Smith (NZL) Philadelphia 2011
South America: 1:10:30 Yolanda Caballero (COL) New York City 2013