Paula Radcliffe wins the 2001 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships (© Getty Images)
The IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, which take place in Vilamoura, Portugal this Saturday, could turn out to be one of the most spectacular in the event’s history.
With a flat course set around a Marina, and weather conditions expected to be sunny and between 16 and 26 degrees, the IAAF has decided to set up official timing positions at 10km, 15km, 20km as well as the full Half Marathon distances.
“The IAAF has established a list of official World Bests based on a number of verifiable criteria, and on 1 January 2004, all valid marks will then become official IAAF Road World Records,” said IAAF President Lamine Diack.
“Naturally, since the World Half Marathon Championships is one of our events, we are making sure that the athletes are given every possible opportunity to enter the record books.”
Amongst the star entries of this weekend’s “World Championships of the Road” is Britain’s Paula Radcliffe, who already holds IAAF World Bests at 10km (30:21), 20km (1:03:26) and Marathon (2:15:25).
Radcliffe also ran 1:05:40 at the Great North Run in Tyneside, England on 21 September, the fastest ever time for the distance, although on a course that is downhill and therefore invalid for record purposes. More significantly perhaps, she beat a world class field, including Berhane Adere (ETH), Derartu Tulu (ETH), Susan Chepkemei (KEN) and Sonia O’Sullivan (IRL) by almost two minutes.
Radcliffe’s main rival is likely to be Mizuki Noguchi, second on the world list this year with 1:08:29, who heads a strong Japanese women’s team which also includes Takako Kotonida, who is the third fastest this year with 1:08:35.
Although she has never run this distance before, the American all-rounder Marla Runyan set a national record of 1:05:52 earlier this month at the US 20km Championships and will be aiming for a place on the podium. Runyan, who is legally blind, has now won three US titles at 5000m on the track, and ran a superb debut marathon last year in New York, finishing fourth in 2:27:10.
Amongst the men, there are a number of athletes who have shown excellent form recently both on the road and on the track at 10,000m.
Tanzania’s John Yuda, who finished third in the last two editions of this event, ran 27:09.83 to finish fifth in the high class 10,000m at the last Golden League meeting in Brussels and has run the second fastest half marathon this year (Milano, 1:00:25). Amongst his rivals are likely to be two Kenyans, John Cheruiyot Korir, who was fifth at 10,000m at the World Championships in Paris and the Olympic Games in Sydney, and also sixth in the Long Race at the last World Cross Country Championships in Lausanne.
His compatriot Yusuf Songoka is also a man to watch, having run 1:00:58 this year to finish second behind World Marathon champion Jaouad Gharib (MAR) in July’s Johannesburg Half Marathon.
Current IAAF World Bests*
10km 30:21 Paula Radcliffe (GBR)
15km 46:57 Elana Meyer (RSA)
20km 1:03:26 Paula Radcliffe (GBR)
Half Marathon 1:06:44 Elana Meyer (RSA)
10km 27:02 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH)
15km 41:29 Felix Limo (KEN)
20km 56:18 Paul Tergat (KEN)
Half Marathon 59:17 Paul Tergat (KEN)
* IAAF Road World Records will be recognised from 1 January 2004