PHILADELPHIA (21-Sep) -- Kenya's Bedan Karoke said Friday that it was his goal to break 59 minutes at the Rock 'N' Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon here today. Although his winning time of 59:21 fell short of that goal, he nonetheless ran the fastest half-marathon on USA soil this year, the third fastest time ever in the 37-year history of this event, and tied the fourth-fastest time in the world this year.
"I'm very happy to come," Karoke told Race Results Weekly after the race. "This is my third half-marathon. I have been winning; I'm very happy."
Behind pacemaker Alex Oloitiptip, Karoke, Geoffrey Bundi and Cybrian Kotut went through the first 5 kilometers on world record schedule in 13:49. Oloitiptip dropped out in the seventh kilometer, leaving the three men to push ahead alone and the race left the city center to run along the Schuylkill River.
"We worked together with Bedan," said Kotut, a younger brother of legendary marathoner Martin Lel. "Then, when pacemaker left us, I took over. I tried to push because I wanted to run my PR."
Bundi fell off the pace about 9 kilometers into the race, and Karoki and Kotut crossed the 10-K mark together on Kelly Drive in a swift 27:45, just outside of world record pace. Karoke was managing well despite the soaking humidity.
"Actually, for the first 10-K it was good," Karoki observed. "But, the weather was very, very humid."
After crossing Falls Bridge to run on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive back to the city center, Karoke put in an acceleration after hitting the 15-K mark in 42:01. Kotut was unable to respond.
"That was my plan; 15 kilometers to push the pace," he said.
Running on his toes with a short but quick stride, Karoke galloped through 10 miles in 45:02, but then began to struggle to keep up his pace.
"Actually, the legs were very heavy," he said of the final stages of the race. "So, I couldn't push up the pace."
Karoke, who finished fifth at the London Olympic Games 10,000m, crossed the finish line in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art all alone, and was immediately congratulated by his Japanese coach, Hiroshi Tako of the DeNA Running Club. He took a Kenyan flag from race organizers, then celebrated with Kotut who finished second in 59:58.
"I'm very happy," said Kotut. "Despite the humid, I'm happy that I've done another 59 here."
World Masters Record For Kastor In The Women's Race
Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor, 41, didn't come to Philadelphia to win the women's race, but she certainly gave that impression in the early kilometers. Running behind Aberu Kebede of Ethiopia and Caroline Rotich of Kenya, Kastor was fewer than 30 seconds behind. It wasn't until about 10 kilometers that she was forced to back off, and got her pace more in line with the world masters record of 1:09:56 set by Russia's Irina Permitina in 2008.
"You know, I got a side stitch at about six miles, and so slowed down a little bit to try to breathe it out," Kastor told Race Results Weekly. She continued: "But, I think I needed that little discomfort to make me hunker down just a little bit. It wasn't as comfortable as I thought."
While Kebede would leave Rotich about 11 kilometers into the race, and run to victory in a very solid, 1:08:39, Kastor worked through the pain and tried to stay on world record pace.
"I felt ready today," she said. "I didn't think I'd cut it this close; I thought I'd have a little more in me."
As Rotich finished second in 1:09:20, the crowd assembled in the finish area began to roar in anticipation of Kastor's finish. She came up the final grade and made the gentle left turn to the finish, crossing in 1:09:35, smashing Permitina's record and running the second-fastest half-marathon by an American woman this year. She said the final kilometers were a real struggle.
"I wasn't feeling great," Kastor admitted. "I kept doing the math: I don't have it, I do have it, no I don't have it. I kept having that mental battle, am I on or am I off? Give up, or should I dig down? And, I ended up digging down for it. You don't get this many chances, and dug down and was able to get under."
Also running well today was Kara Goucher who, like Kastor, used today's race to measure her fitness in advance of the TCS New York City Marathon on November 2. Goucher came home sixth in 1:11:39, inside of her goal of 72 minutes.
"Everything felt great," Goucher told Race Results Weekly. "I just didn't have, like, that really quick turnover, but I felt like I could have kept going if I had to. I just felt like I was maxed out at the pace I was at."
Also noteworthy was the half-marathon debut of American Laura Thweatt, who finished fourth in 1:11:01.
PHOTO: Bedan Karoki winning the 2014 Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon in 59:21 (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)
PHOTO: Deena Kastor is overwhelmed with emotion after breaking the world half-marathon masters record at the 2014 Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half-Marathon; she clocked 1:09:35 (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly).