Sondre Nordstad Moen of Norway and Genet Gashie of Ethiopia turned in dominant victories at the Gdynia Half Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race, on Sunday (17).
After running alone for much of the race, Moen (marathon world rank: 37) reached the finish in 1:01:18 more than a minute clear of his closest competitor while Gashie (road runing world rank: 195) took the women’s race in 1:12:05, 37 seconds ahead of compatriot Shegae Maeregu (road running world rank: 182) who clocked 1:12:42.
The race served as a test event for next year’s IAAF World Half Marathon Championships which will be hosted by this Baltic Sea coast city of 250,000 on 29 March 2020. Runners competed on a new course whose finish is situated on the city’s main municipal beach, the same course that will be used for next year’s championships.
Despite the presence of some strong names -- most notably two-time winner Hilary Kimaiyo of Kenya -- the competition quickly evolved into a one-man show with Moen upping the pace when the pacemaker began to struggle after 7 kilometres. He reached the 10 kilometre mark in 29:14 but didn’t look back. Behind him, the only race that was developing was the battle waged for second between Ethiopian Shumet Akalnew (marathon world rank: 84) and Pole Krystian Zalewski (3000m steeplehase world rank: 44).
When Moen finished a long climb between kilometres 9 and 12, he still appeared fresh and ready to maintain that tempo. He was already more than a minute ahead at 15 km (44:00) and used the downhill section to further cushion his lead in the race’s waning stages. He clocked 58:13 at the 20 km checkpoint and sprinted along the seaside boulevards in Gdynia en route to his 1:01:18 race record, a solid peformance given the windy conditions.
“I had to run alone since the pacemaker struggled,” Moen said. “It was hard to keep the pace on the uphill section but the last six kilometres were very strong for me although the wind was not making it easy.
Surprisingly, Zalewski finished second clocking 1:02:36 in his half marathon debut. Akalnew completed the podium in 1:02:54. Kimaiyo finished a distant sevent in 1:05:28.
In the women’s race, Christine Oigo (road running world rank: 148) was looking to repeat her victory from last year. She initially formed part of the leading group of three, together with the Ethiopians Gashie and Maeregu, who covered the first five kilometres in 17:06.
But it was Gashie who then took command, passing ten kilometres in 34:11, four seconds ahead of Maeregu. She continued to pad her advantage to the finish line, her 1:12:04 run a race record as well.
Maeregu held on to finish second in 1:12:42. Poland’s Anna Gosk passed Oigo by the 15th kilometre and held on to claim the final podium spot, clocking 1:13.07.
Organisers for the IAAF