A riveting battle is expected on the streets of Cardiff Saturday evening when favourites Kenya put their World Half Marathon titles on the line against elite fields.
Champion Geoffrey Kamworor and Bedan Karoki get down to business in the men’s race starting at 5:10pm Kenyan time. The tussle will be preceded by the women’s clash that guns off at 4.35pm.
The antennae will definitely project the men’s race where the Kenyans take the war to Mo Farah’s doorsteps in a replica of the 10,000m race at the World Championships in Beijing last year.
Farah outclassed the Kenyan duo to retain his World title but will the script read different this time?
In the women’s race, pressure is on 2014 World Half silver medallist Mercy Wacera and Paskalia Jepkorir who won bronze at 2012 World Half to deliver victory in the absence of defending champion Gladys Cherono.
Kenyan women achieved an unprecedented feat at the 2014 World Half Marathon in Copenhagen by sweeping the top five places. Things could be interesting after Kamworor and Karoki hinted at going for the World record if the weather allows. But it’s left to be seen whether today’s weather in Cardiff, forecasted to be 11 degrees Celsius, will favour the athletes.
Kamworor, who won in 2014 Copenhagen in a world lead of 59:08, beating Samuel Tsegay (Eritrea) 59:21 and Guye Adola (Ethiopia) 59:21, goes into the race with a personal best of 58:54 from his victory at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in 2013.
Kamworor will be aiming to become the first athlete since Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese in 2009 to win back-to-back titles at the event.
He will be joined by Karoki with whom he worked in tandem to shake off the Ethiopians at the 2015 World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang for a 1-2 finish. The two also shared the pace over 10,000m at Beijing Worlds.
Karoki has a personal best of 59:14 from his victory in Copenhagen last year, the same course that hosted the 2014 World Half. He is unbeaten at 10km and the half marathon and has broken the one-hour mark three times over the distance. Farah will be looking to become the first British winner of the men’s race.
Simon Cheprot (59:20), who finished 22nd at the 2014 Copenhagen World Half, is also in the team alongside Edwin Kipyego (59:30) and Edwin Kiptoo (59:26), who will be representing Kenya for the first time.
Farah, who won the Lisbon Half Marathon last year in 59:32, is a potential threat to the Kenyans alongside athletes from Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s charge is led by 2014 bronze medallist Guye Adola, who has best of 59:06 set at the 2014 New Delhi Half Marathon where he handed Kamworor a rare defeat.
The fastest runner in Eritrea’s team is Nguse Amlosom (60:29), who finished fifth in Copenhagen.
Eritrea have a tough task defending their team title with 2014 silver medallist Samuel Tsegay, World record-holder Zersenay Tadese and World Marathon champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie not making their team.
Besides Wacera, who won Houston Half Marathon in 1:06:29 that was an American record and Jepkorir, Kenya’s squad also has Cynthia Limo, who won Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in 1:06:04 in February, Peris Jepchirchir and Gladys Chesire.
Ethiopia have Netsanet Gudeta and Genet Yalew, who finished sixth and 10th respectively in Copenhagen and Meseret Hailu was plucked from obscurity in 2012 to claim the title in Kavarna.