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Prague Organizers Optimistic Despite Losing Komon

The 24-year-old Kenyan road-running ace is ill.

The 24-year-old Kenyan road-running ace is ill.

(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

PRAGUE — Carlo Capalbo, the Italian-born president of Saturday’s Hervis Prague Half Marathon organizing committee, had a rough night. Just before bed, he got the kind of news that every race organizer fears: his big star had to withdraw from the race.

“Last night at 11:00 Jana Moberly called me,” Capalbo told told reporters here today, referring to the race’s elite athlete coordinator. “We talked about what happened to Leonard Komon. Yesterday, he entered the hospital for some check. Unfortunately, he will not be here.”

Komon, already the world record holder for 10 km and 15 km on the roads, had planned to attack Zersenay Tadese’s world record of 58:23 set in Lisbon in 2010. But his recent training in Kenya had not gone well, and 24 year-old felt ill enough that he went to a local hospital in Eldoret to be checked, according to his manager Marc Corstjens.

“We heard the bad news the day he should leave,” Corstjens told Race Results Weekly in a brief interview here today. “He did a morning run, didn’t feel well. At around noon, he decided to go to the doctor. Once in the hospital, they said he had a fever. And from that fever, the doctor advised don’t take any risks.”

Komon has since gone home to rest, but the four other top men recruited to run here –all of whom have broken the 60-minute mark during their careers– are ready to compete, Capalbo said.

“We have the winner of last year,” Capalbo said referring to Kenyan Philemon Limo, who ran a course record and personal best 59:30. “When we prepare a race we never make a one man show.”

Limo said he would do his part to make it a fast race. “We are going to try our best, depending on the weather conditions,” Limo said of trying to break his own course record, and possibly run faster. “I would like to win, then maybe come next year.”

In addition to Limo, Moberly recruited Kenneth Kipkemoi, a Kenyan who ran a personal best 59:11 in The Hague earlier this month; Stephen Kibiwot, another Kenyan who ran 59:37 in Lille in 2009; and Fabiano Joseph, a Tanzanian who won the 2005 IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships and has a career best time of 59:56.

Of the 11,029 athletes entered in Saturday’s race, ten men have sub-62 minute personal best times, and five women have run sub-70:00. The leading women’s entrant is defending champion Lydia Cheromei of Kenya who clocked 1:07:33 here last year. Cheromei, 34, who won the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in the junior division in 1991 when she was just 13, said that there is a simple reason that she’s still around and competing well 21 years later.

“I think I can say I am talented; that’s why I’m still here,” she told reporters.

Cheromei, who also won the Volkswagen Prague International Marathon last May in a course record 2:22:34, has two very strong rivals in Ethiopia’s Atsede Habtamu (68:29 PB), and Kenya’s Joyce Chepkirui (69:04). Kenyans Gladys Cherono (69:26) and Rose Chelimo (69:45) are the other two sub-70:00 entrants.

Interestingly, the only Olympic gold medalist in the race has no chance of winning and doesn’t plan to finish.  Czech decathlete Roman Šebrle, 37, will run the first 5-K of the race to help build endurance for decathlon’s longest running event, the 1500m.  This will be his third 5-K in the last several weeks, he said.

“Before this indoor season, I tried to run three times at five kilometers,” the muscular Šebrle told Race Results Weekly in an interview. He said he ran under 20 minutes once, which allowed him to run 2:45.36 for 1000m indoors this season “really easy.”

“This time was good for me; after three years the best,” he said in English. “I think for me it will be good to try the same for the outdoor season.” He continued: “For me it’s not a run for fun. It’s for training, for the decathlon, for the Olympics.”

Šebrle’s wife, Eva Kasalová, plans to run the whole distance, he said.

“She was an 800-meter runner,” Šebrle said.  “2:01, many years ago.”

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Saturday’s 14th Hervis Prague Half-Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label event, is the largest race in the Czech Republic (the organizers have 1900 athletes on a waiting list), and the first of six events which will be held this year. Athletes will be competing for a €4000 first prize (equal for men and women), and time bonuses which begin at €2000 for sub-61:00/sub-70:00, and go up to €100,000 for a world record (course record bonuses are €5000). Czech president Václav Klaus will be the official starter of the race, organizers said.