Kenyan runners George Towett and Jude Kimuje will seek to maintain the East African hold over the ninth annual UWI SPEC Half Marathon at St Augustine this morning (6 am).
Defending Towett will be seeking his third title after winning last year and in 2007. The Kenyans copped the first two places in 2007, 2009 to 2011 and took five of the last six editions.
In 2011, 27-year-old Towett finished ahead of Simone Sawe. One year earlier, Sawe and Alfonso Yatich finished one-two ahead of local runners Richard Jones and Denzel Ramirez. Yatich edged Sawe for the 2009 crown while Towett and Ernest Kimeli placed first and second in 2007. Kemili ran away with the 2006 race in a new course record of 1 hour 5 minutes 6.9 seconds (1:05:06.9).
Uganda’s Nicholas Kirprono interrupted the Kenyan streak in 2008, taking the top prize ahead of Cleveland Forde (Guyana). Sawe was the top Kenyan then and finished in sixth position.
Richard Jones has been the most confident local runner in recent years with five top-five finishes in the last six years (2011-5th, 2010-3rd, 2009-4th, 2008-5th, 2007-6th, 2006-4th). Curtis Cox has also placed in the top ten in recent times and has competed in all nine editions of the 13.1 mile race (2011-7th, 2010-6th, 2009-8th, 2008-7th, 2007-7th, 2006-6th). Miami-based veteran Ronnie Holassie, Matthew Hagley and Denzel Ramirez are all expected to battle for the top spots.
The Kenyan women made their debut last year and swept the top three places as Leah Kirjen won ahead of Lucy Kirgat and Kimuje. This year, Kimuje will be aiming to return the trophy to Kenya.
Tonya Nero is the top local lady in the field and will be seeking to become the first T&T winner of the event since Shermin Lasaldo in 2007 and will also be aiming to improve on her fourth-place finish in 2006. Nero set a new national record of 1:15:13 at the World Half
Marathon Championships in Bulgaria earlier this month. Celine Lestrade, Kema McShine, Kertisha John, Paulette Luces, Christine Regis, Janelle Nedd and Nicole Budd will be among the women to watch.
Close to 1,000 runners will line up for the start at 6 am in front of UWI Sports and Physical Education Centre on St Augustine Circular, St Augustine. The runners continue on the Priority Bus Route up to La Resource in D’Abadie and back down to UWI SPEC for the finish.
The bus route will be closed off to vehicular traffic during the race. The 13.1 mile run will be electronically timed and is certified by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS). It is also accredited by International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) and sanctioned by the National Associations of Athletic Administration (NAAA).
First Citizen’s Bank and the Ministry of Sports are the major sponsors of this year’s race. Over $150,000 will be on offer in prize money with the top male and female set to receive US$2,000 each. A further US$1,000 will be awarded for a new course record (men-1:05:06.9, women-1:12:07.6). The top UWI, UWI Staff, UWI St Augustine Alumni, First Citizen Staff, and top local will also receive special prizes. Age group winners will also we rewarded.
There will also be health booths for spectators at the Heart Ease Car Park and Eddie Hart Grounds where basic BMI, blood pressure and blood glucose level testing can be done free of charge. These being done courtesy the Ministry of Health.
Course record: 1:05:06.9 - Ernest Kimeli (Kenya)
1. George Towett - USA - 1:06:42
2. Simon Sawe - USA - 1:08:03
3. Cleveland Forde - Guyana - 1:08:55
4. Stephen Tanui - Kenya - 1:08:59
5. Richard Jones - T&T - 1:09:00
7. Curtis Cox - T&T - 1:12:09
8. Matthew Hagley - T&T - 1:12:44
9. Jules La Rode - T&T - 1:15:00
10. Errol Williams - T&T - 1:15:38
Course record: 1:12:07.6 - Jemina Sumgong (Kenya)
1. Leah Kirjen - Kenya - 1:19:54
2. Lucy Kirgat - Kenya - 1:21:03
3. Judy Jefire Kimuje - Kenya - 1:23:06
4. Firaya Zhadanova - Russia - 1:29:48
5. Kema Mc Shine - T&T - 1:30:48
6. Celine Lestrade - T&T - 1:31:00
7. Kertisha John - T&T - 1:34:11
8. Christine Regis - T&T - 1:34:56
9. Janelle Nedd - T&T - 1:36:24
10. Nicole Budd - T&T - 1:41:08