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Posted: September 20, 2009  :

(RRW) Athletics: Hall And Ndereba Prevail At ING Philadelphia Distance Run

From David Monti
© 2009 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

PHILADELPHIA (20-Sep) -- On a picture-perfect day for road racing here, both Ryan Hall and Catherine Ndereba executed their race strategies perfectly, winning the 32nd edition of the ING Philadelphia Distance Run, America's most storied half-marathon. The talk here over the last few days had been about fast times, particularly by Hall, who requested that the 15-K, 10 mile and 20-K marks be certified just in case he bettered any national records. But both the men's and women's races ended up being tactical, especially the men's, which came down to a sprint in the final kilometer.

Hall, and Kenyans Samuel Ndereba, Benjamin Limo, and Valentine Orare, had separated themselves from the field by the 8th kilometer (23:40). As the race left the city center to run along the Schuylkill River, the four contenders established a very steady, but slow rhythm. Mile splits were consistently between 4:42 and 4:48, with Limo doing most of the leading.

"I remember running 15-K's and we were talking at this pace," said USA 10-mile record holder, Greg Meyer, who was who was watching the race from the press truck.

Hall found the pace, closer to what he would be running for a fast marathon, to his liking. At this point in his marathon build-up for the ING New York City Marathon in November, running even a little faster was challenging.

"After the first couple of miles it was obvious that a record wasn't going to be on for today," said Hall sporting a new short haircut he got here yesterday. He added: "We were all kind of looking around and waiting for someone to move."

Hall decided to sit tight, but not too long, figuring that Limo, the 2005 world 5000m champion, would have the best sprint. But with the pack still together with a mile to go, Hall had waited long enough.

"Right about the mile (to go) mark I put in a nice hard surge," he said. "I just decided I was going to press as hard as I could."

It was good enough. Limo said that a hamstring was bothering him and he was afraid to press any harder. The left an opening for both Hall, who scampered to the finish near the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1:01:52, and Samuel Ndereba, Catherine's brother, who was able to finish second in 1:01:56, just slightly off of his personal best. Limo held on for third in 1:02:01, and Orare was fourth (1:02:22). No other athletes broke 65 minutes.

"I knew that the last mile would be tough," said Limo who seemed pleased overall with his race. Of the hamstring problem he said, "I just felt it when I was warming up."

The women went out more aggressively than the men (33:09 for 10 km), but the race still came down to the final kilometer. Ndereba had to contend with her plucky compatriot, Irene Limika, 30, who was looking for her first Distance Run title. Ndereba wasn't concerned.

"No, I wasn't worried," she said, her eyes hidden behind her trademark sunglasses. "She's training well, and I'm training well, too. I knew we were going to have a tough challenge with one another."

In the end, experience won over youth. Ndereba pressed hard to the finish line to win in 1:09:43, just three seconds up on Limika who set a personal best. Neriah Asiba, also of Kenya, finished third in 1:10:26, just two seconds off of her career best time.

"It's a home crowd," said Ndereba of the Philadelphia fans. "I've been here almost 15 years. It's good to win home."

For two Olympic gold medalists, Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia and Constantina Dita of Romania, results were mixed. Tulu, 37, the first African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in any sport, finished a solid fourth in 1:10:33. She's trying to make a comeback and is hoping to run a fall marathon.

"I'm OK now," said Tulu, clearly pleased. "I'm coming up."

Dita finished 10th in 1:14:47 and was clearly in some pain after the race, holding her lower back and grimacing. She said, however, that the race was part of her rebuilding process after a long break from what she considered to be serious racing.

"It's the first time in a long time that I raced," she said.

Kristen Fryburg, 28, of Broomfield, Colo., was the top American, finishing in 8th place in 1:13:52.

Next year, this race will be run under a new name: the ING Rock 'N' Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon.

PHOTOS: Ryan Hall and Catherine Ndereba win 2009 ING Philadelphia Distance Run (Photos by Jane Monti)

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