Two Kenyan winners of a pair of half-marathons yesterday served notice that we could be approaching a speedy fall marathon season.
In the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, defending champion Stanley Biwott broke away at the six-mile mark and went on to win in 59:36, the fastest time on a record-eligible course in the United States this year and tied for the eighth-fastest in the world for 2013.
Biwott also owns the second-fastest time of the year, 58:56, from February’s Ras Al Khamaih half-marathon in the United Arab Emirates. His marathon personal best is 2:05:12, set when he won Paris in 2012.
“This victory was very important to me,” said the 27-year-old Kenyan, who ran 27 seconds faster than he did at this race in 2012. “I knew that I had some speed in preparation for New York [City Marathon]. It was encouraging because I improved my time from last year. I trained very well for this race and I knew I was in good shape.”
In what was a two-woman race from well before halfway, 24-year-old Lyudmyla Kovalenko of the Ukraine passed New York-based Ethiopian Konjit Biruk just before the tape to win 1:08:59.
Across the Atlantic in the Bupa Great North Run, Priscah Jeptoo made a statement with her scorching 1:05:45 victory over the Ethiopian superstar duo of Meseret Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba. It was the third fastest half-marathon ever run by a woman, although the slightly downhill, point-to-point course is not eligible for official record-setting.
Defar set a national record with her runner-up time of 1:06:09. Dibaba finished third in 1:06:56.
“It was a surprising day for me and I am amazed by the time I ran. I did not expect such a result. I think this was also a great victory for Kenya,” said Jeptoo.
Jeptoo, 29, won silver medals in the marathon at both the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2013 IAAF World Championships.
The men’s race at Great North saw one of the most exciting finishes in history, with Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele holding off a furious last-second charge from Great Britain’s Mo Farah to win by one second, in 1:00:09. Haile Gebrselassie, 40, finished third in 1:00:41.
It was the half-marathon debut for Bekele, the three-time Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder at both 5000 and 10,000 meters.
The week ahead
Keep your eye out for breaking news on the ING New York City Marathon’s pro field of international athletes and the announcement of this year’s NYRR Hall of Fame inductees.
Photo Credit: PhotoRun