Sensational half marathon debut for Abeylegesse.
Written By: David Monti
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly
Her frame is so slight, one might think that Turkey’s Elvan Abeylegesse would be blown off course by the slightest wind.
But today, in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, neither desert winds nor strong rivals could defeat the two-time Olympic silver medallist as she scorched a 67:07 course record at the 4th RAK Half-Marathon, the fastest-ever half-marathon debut on a record-standard course*.
“If the pace had been faster and steadier, my time could have been a lot quicker,” Abeylegesse told the reporters after the event. “I felt easy at 15 km (48:03) and it was only then I decided to start pushing the pace.”
With the temperature at 18°C (64°F) at the start, conditions were very good for racing. The opening 5 km was slightly conservative for this notoriously fast race (16:02), but the pace quickened in the second 5 km segment, passing through 10-K in 31:54. Through 15-K five women remained with Abeylegesse, all Ethiopians: Teyba Erkesso, Aselefech Mergia, Koren Jelela, Aselefech Mergia and Mare Dibaba**.
Abeylegesse was ready to pounce. She reacted to a move by Erkesso, then blew through the 20-K mark with a 15:44 5 km segment behind her. Holding her pace, she broke the tape first, with Dibaba following in a national record 67:13, Mergia in a personal best 67:22, and Tune –who is in heavy training for the Boston Marathon — in fourth.
The men’s contest was won by Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai in 59:43. He defeated Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga, the defending Boston Marathon champion, who dropped out at 18-K, and Merga’s compatriot, Tadese Tola, the reigning New York City Half-Marathon champion, who broke the one hour mark for the first time in 59:49. Third place went to Kenyan Titus Masai in 59:51, a personal best. Patrick Makau’s course record of 58:52 was never under threat.
Both Abeylegesse and Mutai earned USD 20,000 in prize money, but Abeylegesse also earned a USD 5,000 course record bonus.
Organizers reported a record field of about 2000 entrants; the number of official finishers was not immediately available.
*The USA’s Kara Goucher ran 66:57 in her debut at the slightly aided Great North Run, from Newcastle to South Shields, England, in 2007
**This athlete, born “Hurssa Mare Dibaba” in Ethiopia, became a citizen of Azerbaijan June, 2009, but has reverted back to Ethiopian citizenship, according to Pierre Weiss of the IAAF.