Solomon Kirwa Yego winning the 2016 Rome-Ostia Half Marathon (© Organisers)
Kenya’s Solomon Kirwa Yego won the 42nd edition of the Roma-Ostia Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Race, setting an Italian all-comers' record with a world-leading time of 58:44 on Sunday (13).
Yego also improved Wilson Kiprop’s course record from 2013 by 31 seconds and took 1:20 off his personal best, also set in Italy at the Udine Half Marathon last September, going under the hour for the first time.
His compatriot Leonard Kipkoech Langat was second, also in a career best, with 59:18 and Kenya took the top four places with Remmy Ndiwa Limo third in 1:00:06 and Peter Kwemoi fourth in 1:00:13.
A seven-man group, featuring pacemaker Cosmas Birech, Limo Ndiwa, Langat Kipkoech, Kwemoi, Kirwa Yego, Kennedy Kipyego and Ethiopia’s Wami Kebede Tulu, set a fast pace from the start and went through the 5km checkpoint in 14:45.
As the pace sped up, the leading pack was whittled down to four men by 10km: Kirwa Yego, Birech, Kipkoech Langat and Kwemoi. The quartet went through 10km in 28:05 with gap of 16 seconds back to Limo.
Kipkoech Langat and Kirwa Yego then pulled away from Kwemoi at 11 kilometres and went through 15km in 41:54, with a gap of 36 seconds over Kwemoi and Limo.
The two Kenyan leaders then battled it out until 18 kilometres when Kirwa Yego increased his pace further and broke away from his countryman and rival.
“I realised soon (after taking the lead) that I could break the course record," said Kirwa Yego. "I knew that I was in good form but I did not think I could improve my best time by so many seconds."
Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa's win in the women’s race was overshadowed by Kirwa Yego’s stunning run but she was also in fine form, clocking 1:07:08 for the victory and holding off Kenya’s Angela Tanui by eight seconds.
Kenya’s Magdalene Masai made a respectable half marathon debut with 1:07:30 for third place, finishing ahead of Ethiopia’s Marta Lema Megra, who also dipped under 1:08 with 1:07:58.
Kenya’s Peninah Arusei, the 2010 world half marathon bronze medallist, rounded out the top five with 1:09:08.
Seven runners were together in front at 5km: Masai, Tanui, Arusei and fellow Kenyans Martha Akeno and Emma Jebet along with Degefa and Lema Megra. This group went through the 5km in 16:29.
Degefa, Tanui and Masai then broke away just before the 10km mark, which they reached in 32:08, and had three seconds over Arusei and six seconds over Lema Megra.
Masai and Degefa reached the 15km mark in 47:57 with just one second back to Tanui, who was still close on their heels.
As Masai started to struggle slightly, Degefa broke away from Tanui with a decisive attack shortly after the 15km mark and held on to her lead all the way to the line for the second-fastest time ever run in this race, behind Florence Kiplagat’s 1:06:38 course record set in 2012. The Ethiopian runner improved her previous personal best by six seconds.
“I am so happy with my win and my final time," said Degefa. "The Roma Ostia was an important test ahead of my next competitions."
More than 13,000 runners took part in the half marathon.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF