Italy’s largest half marathon featured a revised course.
By David Monti (c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
ROMA (27-Feb) — The decision by race organizers to alter the course of the Maratonina Roma-Ostia appeared to pay immediate dividends when the event records for both men and women were broken here today by comfortable margins.In what was the 37th running of Italy’s largest half-marathon, athletes did a 4 kilometer loop in Rome’s E.U.R. neighborhood before heading west towards the coast in Ostia where only the last 300 meters of the race would be run close to the beach.
It was there that gusting winds had sometimes slowed athletes in the past. Not this year. The new course configuration benefited all of the top runners, but especially Ethiopia’s Tujuba Beyu. Beyu, a late entrant who wore bib number 95, stayed tucked behind pacemaker Nickson Kurgat of Kenya in the early kilometers. A pack of six hit the 5 km mark in a swift 14:12, including Ethiopia’s Yared Admasu Miratu and Abreham Cherkos Feleke (the pre-race favorite), and Kenya’s Abraham Chebii and Joel Kimurer. In the next 5 kilometers, Miratu, Feleke and Kurgat were dropped, and the race was already down to three at 10 km (28:17).
The contest turned into a waiting game, with no man willing to make a move, until Beyu surged past the 20 kilometer mark as the race entered Ostia. His one move was enough to secure victory, but the big question was whether the one-hour mark would be broken for the first time in Ostia. The public address announcer whipped up the crowd, and Beyu sprinted the final meters to stop the clock at 59:58.
“Yes, I was happy,” is all Beyu managed to say in English at the finish line.
Behind him, Kimurer won the sprint for second against Chebii in 1:00:05, also under Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot’s 2002 event record of 1:00:06. Chebii was timed in 1:00:07, Feleke came home fourth in 1:01:42, and Kurgat (the pacemaker) stayed in the race to finish fifth in 1:01:43.
The first five men all set career best times. The women’s race, which featured a match-up between European Championships bronze medallists Jessica Augusto of Portugal and Anna Incerti of Italy, also went out aggressively. Helped by the downhill first kilometer, Augusto and Incerti –surrounded by a group of 18 men– went through 8 km in 26:01, on pace for sub-1:09 finish.
“I started out very fast,” explained Augusto who is in training for the Virgin London Marathon. She shook her head and admitted, “No control my emotions.”
The pair stayed locked together through the remainder of the race. In the final kilometer Eric Chirchir –a Kenyan who runs for an Italian club who was running with the lead women– surged and Incerti followed him. Augusto lost a few strides and was unable to make them up before the finish. Hands raised, Incerti hit the tape in 1:09:06, two seconds ahead of Augusto and nine seconds under Souad Ait Salem’s 2008 course record. It was her second victory at Roma-Ostia (she also won in 2009). Jumping up and down, she immediately ran for the outstretched arms of her coach, Tomasso Ticali, to celebrate. “I am leaving tomorrow for Morocco and I stay there until 22 March,” an excited Incerti told reporters.
She plans to do high altitude training in Ifrane citing the close distance to her home in Palermo and the low cost. “I am going with my husband (steeplechaser Stefano Scaini) and with two other guys I train with.”
Despite losing, Augusto was satisfied with her performance. She was only two seconds off of her personal best time, even though her legs still felt the fatigue of the 250-kilometer training weeks she had been doing in her London build up.
Today’s race gave her confidence, she said. “Yes, I am ready for London,” she declared without hesitation.
Kenya’s Monica Wangari (1:11:37), Hungary’s Krisztina Papp (1:12:18), and Ukraine’s Olha Kotovska (1:12:19) rounded out the top 5. With about 12,000 entries, organizers hoped to see 10,000 runners cross the finish line. They came close: a record 9,485 runners finished the race, nearly 1,000 more than last year.