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Wejo's Look at the 2005 World Half Marathon Champs
by: Weldon Johnson
September 30, 2005

I'm excited to be in Edmonton for the World Half Marathon Champs. I represented the US in this event in 1999 and one of my goals was to get back to this event and redeem myself for my performance in 1999 (I got food poisoning and duked it out for last place in 1999). Well, I barely made it back in time with this being the last year of the World Half Marathon Champs. I guess I'll have to write some great recap of the race to redeem myself since I'm not running.

It is late here and the IAAF has written some nice overall previews of the races (Men's preview here, and women's preview here), so I won't try and reinvent the wheel.

But I'll tell you the things that I'm watching this weekend.

1) The weather. Edmonton is one of the most northern cities in Canada, and they've had great weather this fall until this week. There is some talk of winter arriving before Saturday's race but the official forecast calls for temperatures getting up into the 50s with rain. LetsRun.com message boarders love to post that Africans do not like running in cold, wet conditions. However, regardless of the weather or what they think, an African runner will win the race (Qatar is part of Africa in our atlas)

2) Gilbert Okari. This guy cleaned up on the US Road Circuit this summer. He won every major road race in the US this summer (Peachtree ($15,000), Utica Boilermaker ($5,000), Bix 7 Miler (new car), Beach to Beacon ($10,000), Falmouth Road Race ($11,000), and the Abraham Rosa ($8,000)) picking up $49,000 plus a new car (that doesn't count his earnings from earlier in the year). It's been over a month since his last race, so unfortunately he may not be in top form. I'd love to see him go up against the best in the world when he's in peak form because he is very, very good and the roadies never get any respect until they win a major marathon. (He doesn't seem to race very well at altitude and may never represent Kenya on the track as a result. Plus, the fact he had to run the Kenyan Champs 10k and then the Kenyan World Champs Qualifying 10k about a week apart does not help either).

But the question for Okari is not only his form but how he will hold up at the longer half-marathon distance. He is more of a 10k specialist now, but his future may shine very bright in the longer distances. First he is coached by Dieter Hogan (who has coached Boston Champ Timothy Cherigat and possibly the best marathoner in the world Evans Rutto). And then just listen to Okari talk about his training. He runs a lot or is a great liar. At the Bix 7 Miler, he casually said he runs 50km (30 miles) a day. Then, he told Runnersworld that he runs "20 to 30 miles per day". I like him even more.

The late Benson Masya (one of my favorite runners while in school), was a dominant road runner in the US and he won the first World Half Marathon Champs, so I'd love to see Okari surprise everyone here and win the last World Half Champs. (A bio of Okari's career is here)

3) Sileshi Sihine. If a guy named Kenenisa Bekele did not exist then Sihine would be the Olympic and World Champ 10k champ, and runner-up at Worlds in the 5000m. Instead, Bekele does exists, and most people have no clue how good he is or even who he is despite his 3 silver medals on the track. This may be his opportunity to establish his name independent of his much more famous Ethiopian compatriots.

4) Derartu Tulu
For some reason this veteran does not get the respect she deserves. Gold at the 1992 and 2000 Olympics at 10k, plus the 2001 World Champs. Her marathon career has not been quite as successful (she did win London once), but she still deserves some recognition for her incredible career. And she may be getting better at the longer distances with age. She prd in the marathon at the recent World Champs and then came back a month later to run 67:33 for the win at the Great North Half Marathon two week ago.

5) Nicholas Kemboi
Kemboi is coached by Renato Canova the famed Italian coach who posts training advice on the letsrun.com message boards, so I think he gets followed a bit more than a few other runners of comparable ability. He is a tremendous talent as he ran 26:30 for 10k in 2003 as a 19 year old. He had some injury problems this year but ran 26:51 last month, and has run 60:33 for the half marathon in his life, so he may have the endurance and form to break through here.

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