Familiar Champions Shine at the NYC Half-Marathon

08/17/2009 - 11:25

Radcliffe_Paula-NYHalf096-17-09.jpgPaula Radcliffe and Tadese Tola take control early and don’t let up - New York, August 16, 2009—The winners of today’s NYC Half-Marathon are growing accustomed to breaking the tape in New York’s most coveted races. Three-time ING New York City Marathon winner Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain and NYC Half defending champion Tadese Tola of Ethiopia triumphed again today on the streets of NYC.

Despite warm, humid conditions, the top men and women took off quickly as the horn sounded at 7:00 a.m. in Central Park. Radcliffe, who’s run history’s fastest-ever half-marathon (1:05:40) but had never raced the distance in the United States, led Ethiopia’s Mamitu Daska, while defending champion Catherine Ndereba of Kenya kept close company.

As the women left the park in the eighth mile, Radcliffe made a break and never looked back. She hadn’t raced since her ING New York City Marathon victory last November, and she entered the NYC Half just this week as a test of her fitness and recovery from bunion surgery in March. She’ll decide in the next few days whether she will run the IAAF World Championships Marathon in Berlin on August 23.

"I needed to blow out some racing cobwebs," said Radcliffe. "I’m the first to admit that this is an unorthodox way to test myself for a marathon—running a half-marathon a week out."

Radcliffe eased up in the final miles and finished in 1:09:45, just two seconds short of Ndereba’s course record. Daska took second in 1:11:04 and Ndereba was third in 1:11:56.

Tola’s initial fast start was matched by four-time Olympian Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa. "We knew he was going to push us, and I took the risk, but he didn’t want my company," said Ramaala.

By mile nine, Tola was alone on the West Side Highway. "It’s very hard to run by yourself," Tola said, comparing this year’s race last year’s close finish with Kenya’s Patrick Makau. This year, despite leg cramping after 15K, he held on to finish in 1:01:06, just eight seconds shy of his 2008 time but far from Haile Gebrselassie’s 2007 record of 59:24.

Morocco’s Ridouane Harroufi took second in 1:02:33, and American Olympian and half-marathon record-holder Ryan Hall followed closely in 1:02:35, good for third. "I have a good amount of time to prepare for New York City," said Hall, referring to his plans to run the ING New York City Marathon 2009. "I should be able to run this pace twice over in November."

Three women with New York ties placed in the top 10: Bizunesh Deba of Westchester Track Club (WTC, fifth, 1:13:17), Ilsa Paulson of WTC (sixth, 1:13:20), and New York native Lindsey Scherf (ninth, 1:14:56). Local men Stephen Chemlany of WTC (seventh, 1:04:10), Ketema Nigusse of West Side Runners (eighth, 1:04:13), and Worku Beyi of WTC (ninth, 1:04:28) also performed well.

"I expected a top finish, said Chemlany, "and it was good to have competition with my fellow locals."

A total of 10,171 people finished the race. For many, the warm conditions were a challenge, but they responded with typical New York grit and determination. "All the training runs in the park really made a difference," said Melissa Bergman, a Team for Kids runner who finished in 2:19:14.

Another NYC finisher, Michael Anderson, mopped his dripping brow and smiled after his 1:38:53 finish. "It was tough," he said, "but no matter how bad you feel, nothing beats running through Times Square."

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