NAIROBI, November 5 – Reigning World marathon champion Catherine Ndereba, the second-fastest marathon woman of all-time, is the latest signing for the HBA Great Australian 15km Run to be held in Melbourne on Sunday 30 November.
The inclusion of the 36-year-old Kenyan sets up a fascinating rematch with Olympic Marathon champion Constantina Dita of Romania whose participation in Melbourne had already been announced. The 38-year-old Romanian beat Ndereba to the Olympic title in Beijing, with the Kenyan just prevailing over China’s Zhou Chunxiu to take her second successive Olympic silver.
Ndereba’s marathon record at major championships is unsurpassed in women’s distance running with two World championship titles (2003 and 2007) and a silver (2005), and two Olympic marathon silvers (2004 and 2008) to her credit.
Britain’s Jo Pavey, the 2006 Commonwealth Games 5000m silver medallist, and Australia’s 2004 World Cross Country champion Benita Johnson are the other principal names in the women’s race.
With just one month remaining to the HBA Great Australian Run, the 15km classic has quickly become one of the best quality road races ever staged in Australia, outside the Sydney Olympics.
On the men’s side, the line up includes World marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia and the reigning World marathon champion Luke Kibet of Kenya, as well as Australia’s best distance runner Craig Mottram.
Meanwhile, Kenenisa Bekele, already the master of the three competition surfaces of indoor and outdoor track and cross country, will make what he describes as his ‘first serious step’ on the road when he tackles the Zevenheuvelenloop (Sevenhills Run) over 15 kilometres on Sunday 16 November.
Reigning double Olympic and three-time World 10,000m champion Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, who in Beijing became only the sixth man in history to win Olympic 5000m and 10,000 titles at the same games, has made a few casual outings on the road over 10km (28:50 PB; 2003) in the past but has yet to inflict his full powers on the road racing scene.
The Sevenhills Run, which is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, takes place over a hilly course in the eastern part of the Netherlands from Nijmegen to Groesbeek and back again.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Zevenheuvelenloop is one of the biggest road races in the Netherlands, and the organisers are expecting 31,000 runners this year.
“After I have proved myself on the track and the cross I will now take a first serious step on the road,” confirmed Bekele. “I look forward to this race on the proven fast course.”
And a fast course it certainly is given that Nijmegen played host to the current World record run of 41:29 by Kenyan Felix Limo in 2001. On that occasion, Bekele’s mentor Haile Gebrselassie, the current World record holder in the Marathon was second (41:38), and since then the event has become a regular and successful haunt for much of the Ethiopian distance running hierarchy.
Significantly, Gebrselassie was to return in 2005 and take victory (41:57), inheriting a title which another Ethiopian, multiple global championship medallist Sileshi Sihine had won in 2004 (41:38).
Last year Sihine also returned to Nijmegen to take another success (42:24), one half of a double celebration for Ethiopia, as Bizunesh Bekele (47:36) surprisingly beat multiple World record holder and World champion Lornah Kiplagat of the Netherlands by a second to take the women’s title.
Given the Nijmegen course’s reputation and Kenenisa Bekele’s talent there must be a strong possibility that the World record will be threatened this year, and Bekele’s manager Jos Hermens has confirmed that his charge is both rested and focussing specifically on the race.
"After the gold medals at the Beijing Olympics Kenenisa has taken some rest. He did train after that period of relative rest very hard for the Zevenheuvelenloop. The Sevenhills run has a very good name."
2004 Olympic marathon champion Stefano Baldini of Italy will also run this year’s Zevenheuvelenloop.