Previews31 Mar 2016

Wanjiru and Degefa seek rare back-to-back wins at the Prague Half Marathon


Worknesh Degefa at the pre-event press conference for the 2016 Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon (© Giancarlo Colombo / organisers)

Kenya’s Daniel Wanjiru and Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa will defend their Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon titles at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race in the Czech capital on Saturday (2).

However, history alone suggests that they will have their work cut out as back-to-back wins are far from common at the race, which was inaugurated in 1999.

No man has ever achieved that feat and only two women, the last being Kenya’s Rose Kosgei in 2010.

Regardless of who wins, a fast time is likely. Last year, Wanjiru clocked a personal best of 59:51 and Degefa finished in 1:07:14, a personal best at the time which she has since improved to 1:07:08 when winning the Rome-Ostia race just three weeks ago.

This has been typical of recent years with the men’s winner running faster than an hour in four of the past five editions and the women’s winner has run faster than 1:08:00 for the past five years. However, moving back the start this year from noon to 10am could have an impact on the elite results this year.

The weather forecast for Saturday is for slightly overcast but bright conditions, but the temperature at the start time could be as chilly as 6C, a sharp difference to what could have been the case if the race had been two hours later when the temperature could be as much as six degrees higher.

Wanjiru, who was also third in 2014 and who will be making his 2016 international debut, will face a couple of fellow Kenyan runners who also know their way around the Prague streets.

Peter Kirui won in Prague two years ago and will return to the race motivated to do better than his modest 11th place last year while Geoffrey Ronoh, the 2014 Mattoni Olomouc Half Marathon winner, was three places in front of Kirui in 2015.

Abraham Cheroben, the fastest half marathoner in the world in 2015 with 59:10, showed good form when he ran 1:00:35 for third place at the City-Pier-City race in The Hague earlier this month and will want to go under the hour again.

Cheroben’s best of 58:48, set when wining in Valencia in 2014, is only one second off the race record of 58:47 set by Ethiopia’s Atsedu Tsegay in 2012.

In the women’s race, Degefa will be a familiar face to many local fans but the biggest cheers could be reserved for European 20km race walk bronze medallist Anezka Drahotova, who is also an accomplished runner and looking for a top-10 finish after her 11th place in 2014 and 12th place last year.

An estimated 11,500 runners will run on a spectacular course that leads through the heart of historic Prague, with stunning views of Prague castle, along the Vltava River and over five of the city’s bridges.

Phil Minshull and organisers for the IAAF