- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2007

At times, the New York Road Runners have been guilty of overstating the quality of their fields.

Not this time.

The organizers of the New York City Marathon and other quality events said the men”s field for their New York City Half-Marathon on Aug. 5 “is shaping up to be among the greatest half-marathons ever contested in the United States, with the previously announced Ethiopian distance great Haile Gebrselassie leading the field in his New York debut.”

It helps that half-marathons in the United States have never had deep, top-shelf foreign fields.


In fact, only five half-marathons in this country have had a runner break 61 minutes. The best action has been at international locations in Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates; Berlin; and Den Haag, Netherlands, where just this year alone there were four sub-61s, six sub-61s and four sub-61s, respectively.

Gebrselassie was not one of them. Arguably the greatest distance runner of all time with dozens of world records in a range of distances, he became history”s second fastest half-marathoner in January 2006, running 58:55 in Phoenix.

Still, the quality and depth of the New York City field is stellar.

It includes Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, a Kenyan with the 36th-fastest half-marathon ever in 60:06. That, however, was five years ago. Hendrick Ramaala, the 2004 New York City Marathon champion from South Africa, is one place behind Cheruiyot on the world list with a 60:07, but that was 10 years ago.

It also was 10 years ago when Moroccan-turned-American Khalid Khannouchi won the Philadelphia Distance Run in 60:27. Former marathon world record holder Khalid Khannouchi, 35, who lives in nearby Ossining, N.Y., set the U.S. marathon record (2:05:38) and has committed to run.

Returning from last year”s inaugural half-marathon are runner-up and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi (61:28), third-placer Abdi Abdirahman (61:34) and fellow American and two-time Olympian Alan Culpepper (eighth in 64:07).

The race has a total purse of $70,000 with $10,000 each for the men’s and women’s winners.

Confidence booster — It will be interesting to see what Bristol, Va., resident Fernando Cabada will do today at the San Francisco Marathon, near his hometown of Fresno. Cabada, 25, has a date with the IAAF World Championships marathon in Osaka, Japan, on Aug. 25, but he has told San Francisco race officials he intends to use their race as a training run.

Since a shocking 2:12:27 marathon debut in December in Fukuoka, Japan, Cabada has been struggling. However, he did have a breakthrough race two weeks ago, cruising to an impressive win at the Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon in a course-record 1:04:57.

Maybe he will get some pacing from Arlington”s own Michael Wardian, who recently ran a personal best 2:21:37.

Cheer-Rio — Mechelle Lewis of Fort Washington earned a silver medal in the 100 meters at the Pan Am Games last week in Brazil.

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