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Keitany Takes Radcliffe Record

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Claire Hallissey
Hallissey - top finisher for Aviva GB & NI women


11 October 2009

Unable through illness to contest a record-breaking fourth title, Paula Radcliffe saw her championship record time for the IAAF/EDF Energy World Half Marathon Championships consigned to history today. Mary Keitany, a 27-year-old Kenyan who took 2008 out to give birth to her first child, put on a magnificent display of solo running in Birmingham to take the title and record.

Radcliffe’s championship mark of 1:06.47 had stood the test of time since 2001 when, in front of a home crowd in Bristol, she took the second of her three World Half Marathon gold medals. But Keitany holds the mark now, improving it by 11 seconds to 1:06.36, after breaking clear from her final challenger, Ethiopia’s Aberu Kebede, in the sixth mile.

Keitany only narrowly fell short of the world record of 1:06.25 set by Lornah Kiplagat, of the Netherlands, when winning this title* in Udine, Italy, in 2007. But, en route to the finish, Keitany did run faster than the world 15k record of 46:55 set by Kayoko Fukushi, from Japan, in 2006, but the course does not meet official world record criteria.

For the Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland squad, Claire Hallissey led the way in 25th place, recording 1:12.14. She was followed by Michelle Ross-Cope in 34th (1:13.50), Gemma Miles in 44th (1:14.56), Alyson Dixon in 45th (1:15.19) and Rebecca Robinson 46th (1:16.21).

Claire Hallissey said:

“I really wanted to get under 72 but it was hilly out there. Round the corners I was going quite slowly, I was skidding all over the place. I was hoping for something around that though – top 30. I started off quickly and slowed down, but then everyone did the same, you just have to go with it. I felt like I dropped off the pace a but at one point, but I managed grit my teeth and stick with it, if you lose the group you’re with it’s hard to pull it back. You can’t get really go for times in a race like this, you just have see how the race goes and stick with the guys around you.”

Michelle Ross-Cope said:

“I felt alright, strong. I obviously only knew I was racing on Monday, but its worked out really well. The start was so quick, and we stuck together in the early stages. It was hard holding back on that first mile, I knew it would fly.”

Gemma Miles said:

“I didn’t think we’d gone too quickly through the first mile, but when I looked at the clock it was quite quick. I went a bit dizzy around six miles but I came through it. We (Alyson and I) ran most of the race together. I felt good. You work together but you’ve also got that competition within your team. We worked together for a long way chasing the two in front, but at the end of the day it comes down to a race between you.

“The course recce was of benefit to us definitely, but the finish took us by surprise a little.”

Up front it was a towering run by Keitany, who became the first Kenyan winner of the women’s title for 10 years, since Tegla Loroupe triumped in Palermo, Italy. Pony-tailed, like Loroupe, Keitany won the title for the first time after finishing runner-up to Kiplagat in 2007. Kiplagat, who had won the world road race title for the last three years, was unable to defend because of a knee injury.

Keitany returns home with two gold medals, having led Kenya to an emphatic team victory. Forcing the pace from the second mile after a lead group of 10 runners had formed in the first half mile. The eventual winner’s strong early pace saw the group cut down to five by the end of the second mile, to four in the third, and to only her and Kebede in the fourth mile.

Kebede, though, running in Keitany’s slipstream, was unable to cling on beyond the end of the fifth mile. The Kenyan had gestured several times to the Ethiopian to take a share of the pacemaking but her rival declined. After that, there was never any doubt as Keitany opened a clear lead which had grown to more than a minute by the finish. Philes Ongori pipped Kebede for the silver medal in 1:07.38, with the Ethiopian timing 1:07.39.

Caroline Kilel was fourth to complete Kenya’s victory, on cumulative time, with three to score, in 3:22.30. Ethiopia took team silver with 3:26.14 and Russia bronze with 3:31.23. Great Britain and Northern Ireland finished seventh.

As a testament to the organisation and speed of the course, the first seven athletes set personal best times. Unfortunately, for the host nation, none of the home team managed to take advantage but the wind and wet roads did make conditions far from perfect.

“The wind was strong,” Keitany said while Hallissey added: “I wanted to go under 72 minutes but everyone was running in the same conditions.”

* Lorna Kiplagat recorded a world half marathon record time of 66.25 in 2007 when the event was officially called the World Road Running Championships.