The seventh running of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, held on October 4 in Košice, will be remembered both for the impressive times produced - a world championships' record eight male runners finished under 1:01 - and for the dominance of the Kenyan men's team, whose depth and quality was never more convincingly established.
A light-footed phalanx of four Kenyan runners led from the outset. The lead pack, 20-strong at the 10K mark, dwindled to 10 at 12K and 6 athletes by 15 kilometers. Besides Moses Tanui of Kenya, who holds the half marathon world record (59:47), the group included his compatriots Shem Kororia, Laban Chege and Kenneth Cheruiyot. Challenging the Kenyans were Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa and Mohammed Mourhit of Belgium.
At 18K, the experienced Tanui finally made his move, taking Kororia, Ramaala and Mourhit with him. At 20K, Tanui and Kororia had shaken all pursuers except, incredibly, that of Cheruiyot - running in his first half marathon event. The virtually unknown 23 year-old Kenyan had been dropped at Tanui's break, but had fought back to join the leaders and to force a sprint for the line.
And a sprint it was. Having passed 20K in 57:03, the leaders were still 30 seconds off Tanui's 1993 record pace, but made up 21 seconds of the deficit in the final kilometer (2:36). In the end, Kororia's legs proved the stronger, giving him victory in 59:56 and relegating Tanui to second in 59:58. Cheruiyot took third in 1:00:00, making the lead trio the fastest in the history of the half marathon.
The women's event also produced fast times - Kenya's Tegla Loroupe took the title in 1:08:14, and although her time was well off the world mark of 1:07:11, set in 1992 by Britain's Liz McColgan, it was good enough to set a World Championships best. The Romanian women won the team competition for the fifth year in a row, led by Cristina Pomacu (second place in 1:08:43) and Lidia Simon (third, 1:09:05).
9. Oct 1997 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson