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Zersenay Tadese Wins Prague Half Marathon

Kenyan Gladys Cherono takes the women's race.

Kenyan Gladys Cherono takes the women’s race. 

(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission. 

PRAGUE — Zersenay Tadese came here in the hopes of making history. Instead, he found himself in a battle against the elements and in a footrace with one of his training partners.

Tadese, the five-time world champion, did not come close to breaking his world record and needed every ounce of his being to hold off fellow Eritrean Amanuel Mesel to win the Hervis Prague Half Marathon in 60 minutes, 10 seconds. Mesel, 22, didn’t obtain his visa to compete here until Thursday yet finished as the unexpected runner-up in the same time.

While all focus was on the men’s record chase, it was actually the women’s race that produced the day’s most stellar result as Gladys Cherono of Kenya pulled away from her competitors quite early and cruised to victory in 1:06:48, smashing the course record of 1:07:03 set last year by Joyce Chepkirui and recording the fourth-fastest time in the world this year.

“Last night, I dreamed of competing and running well,” Cherono said. “But there was nothing in my dream about the finish or the course record.”

It was the dream of race organizers that the men’s race would produce a legitimate attack on Tadese’s world record of 58:23 set in 2010 at the Lisbon Half Marathon. A €100,000 bonus was offered for such a time. But the weather had cast doubts all week on the feasibility of that attempt, and unseasonably cold temperatures continued on race day with the mercury holding at 4C/39F at the start with 15 km/s winds and 85 percent humidity.

Tadese claimed afterward that it was one of the coldest days he has raced on and also acknowledged having problems with the sections of the course made up of the cobblestone that gives this city its medieval charm. However, it might have actually been the health of the race’s protagonist that proved to be the biggest obstacle.

Moments after crossing the finish, Tadese explained to Czech Television that he had been suffering from flu-like symptoms the night prior to the race and added that his “body felt heavy” during the race.

That may have indeed been the case as the elite runners, led by Ethiopian pacers Fidaku Haftu and Teshome Mekonen, plodded through the opening five kilometers in 14:07, immediately setting the projected finishing time about one minute off world-record pace.

About eight minutes later, Tadese tired of the slow-ish pacing and took to leading the race himself. It was at that point that the lead group of 10 runners splintered greatly. Four athletes, Mesel and Kenyans John Kipsang, Pius Maiyo Kiprop and Henry Kiplagat, followed Tadese and formed the lead pack of five that quickly opened about a 150-meter lead on the chase group and ran shoulder to shoulder for nearly the rest of the way.

Although the pace quickened somewhat, the runners were still off world-record form. Kiprop and Tadese hit the 10K mark in 28:13. For point of comparison, that split was 20 seconds slower than Tadese ran during his world-record race in Lisbon in 2010 and 10 seconds slower than Ethiopia’s Atsedu Tsegay covered the opening 10K in during his course-record and world-leading run of 58:47 here last year.

The world record was no longer on anyone’s mind at the 15K, which was hit in 42:38, nearly a minute slower than Tadese had originally planned. At that point the question became who was going to win the race. None of the lead five had shown signs of breaking. Kipsang had appeared to be the strongest of the group. He threw in surges on three occasions, beginning around the 44-minute mark, to try and drop some of his competitors but each move was covered easily.

After the leaders went through 20K in 57:15, Mesel made a push to the front that began to string things out. Tadese gave chase and Kipsang followed, but Kiprop and Kiplagat fell off. Tadese moved in front of Mesel and dropped Kipsang, rounding onto Manesuv Bridge and heading toward the finish. Mesel gave one last attempt to regain the lead but Tadese held him off for the victory.

Tadese wound up covering the final kilometer in 2:56, which is about 4:18 per mile pace. Mesel, who competed in the 5000m final at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, finished second in 60:10, smashing his personal best of 61:20 set in 2011. Kipsang was third in 60:15, obliterating his prior PB of 61:50 set in Zwolle last year.

“My plan was to accelerate with 500 meters to go,” Tadese said. “But my friend Amanuel here kicked with one kilometer left so I had to go with him.”


The women’s race figured to play out as a duel between Cherono, who established her previous personal-best of 68:18 in a third-place finish here last year, and Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa, who clocked a personal-best 67:49 at the Roma-Ostia Half Marathon last month.

The early goings saw those two women, as well as Kenyan veteran Isabellah Ochichi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the 5,000m, and Ethiopia’s Waganesh Mekasha tucked closely behind Ukrainian (male) pacer Vassily Matvichuk. That group of four went through the 5K in 15:56, trailed closely by three other women. Ochichi was just one second behind the other three at the 10K mark, which they went through in a swift 32:02.

It was over the next five kilometers that Cherono began to exert her will on the others. At the 15K, she began to open a small lead on Degefa and had already dropped Ochichi and Mekasha. Cherono continued to pull away over the next five kilometers, and by the 20K mark she was clear of Degefa by one minute and nine seconds and just five seconds off course-record pace.

“At no point did I think that I was going to break the course record,” Cherono said. “It wasn’t until I crossed the finish and looked up and saw the time that I knew I had broken it.”


1. Zersenay Tadese, ERI, 60:10
2. Amanuel Mesel, ERI, 60:10 PB
3. John Kipsang, KEN, 60:15 PB
4. Pius Maiyo Kiprop, KEN, 60:18
5. Henry Kiplagat, KEN, 60:21
6. Abere Kassw, ETH, 61:17
7. Tigabu Gebremaryam, ETH, 61:28 PB
8. Daniel Chebii, KEN, 61:52
9. Teklemariam Medhin, ERI, 61:55 PB (debut)
10. Philemon Limo, KEN, 61:57

1. Gladys Cherono, KEN, 66:48 CR/PB
2. Worknesh Degefa, ETH, 68:12
3. Isabella Ochichi, KEN, 69:21
4. Waganesh Mekasha, ETH, 69:31
5. Ehitu Kiros, ETH, 69:38 PR
6. Agnes Katunge Mutune, KEN, 70:06
7. Pamela Lisoreng, KEN, 70:09 PR
8. Edinah Kwambai, KEN, 72:40
9. Mary Wangari Wanjohi, KEN, 73:13 PR
10. Azusa Nojiri, JPN, 75:15