Defending champion George Towett will be going for his third title at the Ninth UWI SPEC half marathon which gets underway from the UWI Sports and Physical Education Centre (SPEC) Gymnasium in St Augustine on Sunday.
The 27-year-old Kenyan-born runner won in 2011 and 2007. He is hoping to maintain the dominance of Kenyan runners in recent editions of the 13.1 mile race. The US-based athlete will face familiar competition as he is among seven of the top ten of last year’s race expected to line up for the 6 am start.
Cleveland Forde (Guyana), Stephen Tanui (Kenya), Richard Jones, Curtis Cox, Matthey Hagley and Jule La Rode (T&T) were third, fourth, fifth, sixth, eight and ninth in the 2011 run.
Among the women, Mary Akor will be searching for her second crown after taking the 2009 race.
The Nigerian-born American lass will have to battle against Kenya’s Judy Kimuje and 2008 winner Alika Morgan (Guyana). National record holder Tonya Nero will lead the local charge. Nero lowered the national marathon mark to 1:15:13 at the World Half Marathon Championships in Kavarna, Bulgaria, on October 5. Celestrine Lestrade, Janelle Nedd and Lynette Luces will again be looking to finish in the top ten finishers in the women’s race.
This year the organisers have set a limit of 1,000 entrants and race director Justin Latapy-George told Trinidad Guardian that at the deadline for registration on October 17 the figure was met.
“The race is always heavily subscribed. We closed entries last Wednesday and met our 1,000 mark.
“We were a bit concerned up to the previous Friday...as our numbers were about 585, but before the deadline we got up to our 1,000 target.” George said the international competitors will come from within the region. “We look for athletes who are in and around the North and South America region. We have predominantly Kenyan runners who are based in the US training.
“It is for budgetary reasons and that works well for us. We also look in the region because it is really a regional title race with an international flavour to maintain that competitive edge.” The Success/Laventille Composite and Malick Secondary graduate said that one of the added features to this year’s race will be a health booth for spectators.
He said: “We have partnered with the Ministry of Health to do health screenings on the day. We will have two locations, Heart Ease Car Park at UWI and Eddie Hart Savannah where we will be testing for basic BMI, blood pressure and blood glucose level for the spectator population.”
George took over the reigns as director at UWI SPEC in March earlier this year and paid tribute to the first director, Dr Iva Gloudon, who is now this country’s High Commissioner to Jamaica.
George thanked UWI’s Marketing and Communications Department and the staff at UWI SPEC for their continued involvement in the race since its inception. First Citizens Bank and the Ministry of Sports are the major sponsors.
The runners will be competing for prize monies totaling $135,000. Towett won last year’s race in 1hr 6 minutes and 42 seconds, missing the course record of 1:05:70 set in 2006.