Paul Tergat at the 1999 IAAF World Cross Country Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Over 50 nations in Palermo for World Half Marathon Championships - Loroupe and Tergat to star

Athletes from 52 countries are expected in Palermo for the eighth edition of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, set to take place in the Sicilian capital on the morning of Sunday 3 October.

The athletes will run three circuits of the course, which is just over seven kilometres long and runs through the historic centre of the city, for a total of 21.097 kilometres. The course is far from easy, incorporating as it does a number of relatively important inclines set amid the beautiful architecture of one of the Mediterranean’s oldest cities.

This World Championships brings international athletics back to Palermo after years of absence. In the past, Palermo has given to our sport, and especially to distance running, some great champions: Salvatore Antibo, Olympic silver medallist in the 10,000m in Seoul in 1988 and European Champion in the 5000m and 10,000m in Spalato in 1990, is probably the best know.

But another native of Palermo, Vincenzo Modica, has followed in the path of Antibo in recent years, culminating in a silver medal in the toughest of our disciplines in the IAAF World Championships in Seville, the marathon.

Tradition and a love of the endurance races are a guarantee for the success of the organisation and popular support for this World Championships, which both in the women’s race (starting at 9.30 am) and the men’s race (start at 9.50 am), can boast two formidable athletes: the Kenyans Tegla Loroupe and Paul Tergat.

Just last Sunday, in Berlin, Tegla Loroupe set another world best performance in the marathon, with a time of 2:20.43, confirming her status as one of the great distance runners of all time. She is versatile enough to run at the highest levels both on the track and on the road.

Paul Tergat’s ability is just as irrefutable, with his five world cross country titles to prove it. The half marathon is one of his areas of special predilection and he currently owns the world best performance for the event of 59:17.

In addition to the individual titles, team titles will be awarded in Palermo, on the basis of the best three placings per nation (countries can enter a maximum of five athletes). Among the favourites for the team titles, other than Kenya, obviously, are Ethiopia, South Africa, Romania and Italy.

Italy was the winner of the men’s team competition in 1996 in Palma de Majorca and third in the women’s competition and this year’s team is also looking good, with Roberto Barbi, Michele Gamba, Giacomo Leone and the adopted son of Palermo, Rachid Berradi.

The Italian women’s team looks strong too, with Rosario Console – silver medallist over 10,000m of the recent European under-23s – twins Florinda and Lucille Andreucci, Sonia Maccioni and Agat Blasamo also looking for their place on the podium