Lornah Kiplagat wins the 22nd Dam to Dam race from Amsterdam to Zaandam in 50:50 (© Wim van Hemert)
In the second of our race previews, we examine the merits of some of the leading contenders in the Women’s 20km Race at the 1st IAAF World Road Running Championships, Debrecen, Hungary on Sunday 8 October.
Click here for the preview of the Men’s 20km Race
Following a mass relay race for students at the start of the morning, the women’s 20km opens the championships properly on Sunday at 11.00hrs local time (09.00 GMT), offering the home spectators the best chance of individual success. 29-year-old Anikó Kálovics is a multiple Hungarian national champion and record holder, with PBs of 15:29 (5k), 31:42 (10k), 49:24 (15k) and 69:16 (HM). With experience of two Olympic Games at 10,000m, and a fifth place at the European Cross Country Championships last year, she should be aiming for a top-10 finish, and may well be inspired on home territory.
The name of two World track champions loom large over the entry list. However, the participation of Ethiopia’s Berhane Adere (2003 World 10,000m champion) and Uganda’s Dorcus Inzikuru (2005 3000m World Steeplechase champion) is in doubt. The former, who also won the World Half Marathon title in 2002, has reportedly withdrawn following her half marathon victory in Newcastle last weekend, while the Ugandan has recently suffered a serious allergy attack and is said to be unfit to race.
But whatever occurs with these two names, Sunday’s event can still boast a World Championship gold medallist in Romania’s Constantina Tomescu, who won last year’s World Half Marathon Championships, the IAAF World Athletics Series event which has been replaced by this year’s inaugural World Road Running Championships. With a 1:05.27 PB set this year Tomescu is the fifth fastest over 20km in the world, and the third quickest of those assembled for the title challenge.
Romania can equally rely on Lidia Simon to once again uphold its proud tradition in long distance running. The 33-year-old took the 2001 World Marathon title, so far the zenith of a career littered with other major medals – 1997 World Championship Marathon Bronze, 1999 World Championship Marathon Bronze , 2000 Olympic Marathon Silver, and at the World Half Marathon Championships, three Bronze 1997, 1998, 2000, and silver in 1996.
Leading the world in 2006 over 20km, and entered for Debrecen are the Asian and African record holders, respectively Kayoko Fukushi of Japan – 1:03:41 – and Kenyan Edith Masai – 1:03:52. Fukushi and Masai set their records as intermediate splits on the way to Half Marathon victories, the former in the Marugame Half Marathon (67:26 Area Rec) on 5 February, and the latter at the Berlin Half Marathon (67:16) on the 2 April.
Fukushi and Masai are major championship performers of the highest pedigree, with a solid ability over a range of distances, and are two very serious challengers for gold this weekend.
Fukushi, 24, is national record holder at 3000m (8:44.40), 5000m (14:53.22), 5km (15:33), Half Marathon (67:26 Area Rec) with two Asian Games track silvers to her credit, and a third place finish over 5000m at the recent World Cup.
Masai, 39, is the three-time World Cross Country short course gold medallist, and ran to bronze over 5000m at the 2003 World Championships, having set the Area record for 3000m in 2002 (8:23.23). After failing to progress from her 5000m heat at the 2004 Olympics, her best years were thought already to have been run but then she took a 2:27 victory in the Hamburg Marathon in 2005. This year she stunned again with a Kenyan record over 5000m of 14:33.84 in Oslo in June, and then set a national 10,000m mark of 30:30.26 in Helsinki in August.
Backing-up Masai’s challenge will be her compatriot Rita Jeptoo, the Boston marathon champion this year (2:23:28) who has a half marathon best of 70:41 and for 20km, 1:07:47.
Former Kenyan Lornah Kiplagat, who now represents the Netherlands is in superb form. At the Dam to Dam (Ten Miles) race from Amsterdam to Zaandam on 17 September, Kiplagat won in 50:50, bettering her world’s fastest ever clocking (22 Sep 2002) by four seconds. With a 1:03:54, 20km PB set in 2001, the 34-year-old is the ‘real deal’ on the roads having won major marathons in Osaka and Rotterdam. She is also the silver medallist from last year’s World Half Marathon Championships, and is the reigning European Cross Country champion.
Former World record holder for the women’s 3000m Steeplechase Justyna Bak is Poland’s sole but top quality entrant, while in Adere's presumed absence Teyiba Erkesso, the 2004 World Cross Country short course bronze medallist should be Ethiopia's best bet for honours.
And then we have a formidable line-up from Russia to consider. Olesya Syreva is an outstanding prospect, the University Games winner at 1500m, but she has no career credentials above 5000m. Irina Timofeyeva is the 2006 Paris Marathon champion, while interestingly another of the squad is Alina Ivanova. The 37-year-old won the World 10km Race Walking gold in Tokyo 1991 and with a late conversion to running took ninth in the 2004 World Half Marathon. She has a personal best of 2:25:34 for the marathon after coming seventh in London in 2001. She is also this year’s Prague Marathon winner (2:29:20).
In a race which will be contested by athletes from 29 nations, the team battle should be between the Kenyans, Romanians, Japanese and Russians.
Chris Turner for the IAAF