Gladys Cherono breaks the course record at the Prague Half Marathon (© Organisers)
Despite temperatures that felt as though the city was enclosed in a refrigerator, the Czech capital witnessed a course record in the women’s competition and an exciting finish in the men’s race at the Hervis Prague Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (6).
Eritrea’s World record-holder Zersenay Tadese did not break any records on this occasion, but was happy to win with a time of 60:10. Perhaps contrary to expectations, the performance of the day actually came in the women’s race, where Kenya's Gladys Cherono broke the course record with 1:06:48.
In temperatures of around just 4°C, the women ran fast from the beginning. Cherono, Worknesh Degefa, Isabella Ochichi and Waganesh Mekasha passed the 10km point in 32:02 – a split time that indicated that they were on schedule to break the course record of 1:07:03, set last year by Joyce Chepkirui.
But today it was Cherono, the African 5000m and 10,000m champion, who managed to keep the pace fast throughout. Just before the 15km mark she began to open a gap on Degefa and soon after that the Kenyan was well ahead. She continued to extend her lead right until the end, crossing the line in 1:06:48 to move to ninth on the world all-time list.
“I’d hoped for a good race, but didn’t expect to run that fast,” said Cherono, who finished third last year. “Naturally I am very happy with the course record. Actually I had a dream about this race, but I couldn’t see where I finished!”
Degefa was second in 1:08:12, and in third place Kenya’s 2004 Olympic 5000m silver medallist Ochichi ran a brilliant comeback after nearly seven years out of action with 1:09:21 – just 43 seconds shy of her PB set 12 years ago. “After all these years I am very happy to be here,” said the 33-year-old. “I expected to run well, but I did not think about achieving a third place.”
Tadese times finish to perfection
In contrast to the women, the men set off at a steady pace and the World record of 58:23 was out of reach from early on. Instead, spectators witnessed a thrilling finish in which World record-holder Zersenay Tadese just edged out his fellow Eritrean Amanuel Mesel.
With a 10km split time of 28:13, a group of five runners were in contention for victory. Just before the 20km mark, Tadese, Mesel, John Lotiang, Pius Kirop and Henry Kiplagat were still together. The two Eritreans then injected some pace and with just around 300m to go they left behind their Kenyan rivals.
It was only on the short home straight next to the Rudolfinum that the five-time World Half-marathon champion opened a very small, decisive gap and crossed the line two steps ahead of his training partner Mesel as both were given the same time of 1:00:10.
“My plan was to sprint for the final 500m, but Amanuel was still behind me,” said Tadese. “Taking into account the weather conditions my time is okay. But next time I want to run faster.
“It felt like the coldest race I’ve ever run,” added Tadese, who also revealed that he felt as if he had a cold the day before. “Today I felt better, but in the cold my body felt heavy at times.”
“It was my aim to run a personal best,” said Mesel, who had entered the race with a PB of 1:01:20. “But to run all the time with Zersenay and finish so close behind him, that’s amazing.” Both runners have the same Spanish coach, Jeronimo Bravo.
John Lotiang of Kenya took a surprise third with 1:00:16, improving his PB by more than one minute, while his team-mates Pius Kirop (1:00:18) and Henry Kiplagat (1:00:21) also ran sub-61. Eritrea’s Teklemariam Medhin, who last month took bronze in the senior men’s race at the World Cross Country Championships, finished ninth on his Half-marathon debut with 1:01:55.
A record number of 12,500 runners entered the Hervis Prague Half Marathon, which marked the start of the Run Czech Series 2013. Six more international road races are to follow with the next event being the Volkswagen Prague Marathon on 12 May, also an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
Organisers for the IAAF
1 Zersenay Tadese (ERI) 1:00:10
2 Amanuel Mesel (ERI) 1:00:10
3 John Lotiang (KEN) 1:00:16
4 Pius Kirop (KEN) 1:00:18
5 Henry Kiplagat (KEN) 1:00:21
6 Abere Kassw (ETH) 1:01:17
7 Tigabu Gebremariam (ETH) 1:01:28
8 Daniel Chebii (KEN) 1:01:52
9 Teklemariam Medhin (ERI) 1:01:55
10 Philemon Limo (KEN) 1:01:57
1 Gladys Cherono (KEN) 1:06:48
2 Worknesh Degefa (ERI) 1:08:12
3 Isabella Ochichi (KEN) 1:09:21
4 Waganesh Mekasha (ETH) 1:09:31
5 Ehitu Kiros (ETH) 1:09:38
6 Agnes Mutune (KEN) 1:10:06
7 Pamela Lisoreng (KEN) 1:10:09