SAM ALEXANDER, CT, AND ANDY WEAVER,
#34, FROM DE LEAD A GROUP OF RUNNERS AS
A SQUIRREL HIGHTAILS IT ACROSS THE STREET.
(CLAY SHAW PHOTO

Biwott Breaks 60 Minutes at 36th
Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon

BY DAVID BLOCK

PHILADELPHIA, PA--The Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon (formerly the Philadelphia Distance Run) has had its share of well-known elite distance runners finish first: Rod Dixon, Khalid Khannouchi, Ryan Hall, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Catherine Ndereba, just to name a few.

Despite the race’s prestige and high level of competition, it took 34 years before a male runner could cover the relatively easy 13.1 race course under one hour. The year was 2011 and where Matthew Kisorio made history doing the almost impossible, breaking an hour. He clocked 58:46. He entered that year as defending champion; he won in 2010, 1:00:16. His 58:46 posting is still the course record. In 2011, the runner-up Sammy Kitwara finished one second slower; 58:47. They were the only two runners to finish this race under one hour--until this year.

At the 36th running of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon this past September 15, last year’s defending champion Stanley Biwott easily won, with a 59:36 clocking. (Last year he won with a 60:03 clocking.) His finishing time this year is the third fastest in the race’s history. Like 2011, the runner-up this year also broke the one-hour barrier, as Cybrian Kotut posted 59:59.

In sum, the race now has a cyclical pattern where the winner would finish between 60 and 61 minutes and then win a second year in a row under an hour; the runner-up would also finish under 60 minutes. However, none of that seemed to matter to a disappointed Biwott who wanted to beat his all time best half- marathon time of 58:56, which he set earlier in 2013 at the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates.

“No one challenged me today {at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon}, said Biwott in broken English. Near the four-mile mark on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Biwott and Kotut broke away from the pack.

After Biwott saw his 10K split of 28:00 on the Martin Luther King Drive, he pushed the pace because he saw firsthand that he was running too slowly. Kotut failed to respond. He had a 20-meter lead after hitting seven miles in 31:33.

Biwott crossed the East Falls Bridge onto the Kelly Drive, and shortly afterwards hit his nine mile split, 40:40. Biwott occasionally glanced over his shoulder, but Kotut was nowhere near him. He now had a 40-meter lead.

 

 STANLEY BIWOTT IS THE 2013
ROCK 'N' ROLL PHILADELPHIA HALF
MARATHON CHAMPION IN 59:36.
CLAY SHAW PHOTO
He ran past the water stops without accepting one cup. “It was cool,” said Biwott.

When he hit 10 miles in 45:15, he knew that he would not set a new PR. “I knew I could break 60 {minutes},” said Biwott; and he was right.

He said that the race was easier this year than last because, “I knew the course better. I was familiar…I will come back next year if I’m invited.”

Biwott will run the NYC Marathon this November. He said it will be special to him because last year he was scheduled to run it, but the marathon was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy.

The women’s race came down to the wire. Lyudmyla Kovalenko won with a 1:08:59 posting and Konjit Biruk trailed by one second, 1:09:00.

At four miles, the two ladies broke from the pack and made it a two-woman race. Neither runner tried to take the lead until the last 20 yards where Kovalenko out-kicked Biruk. Kovalenko’s goal was to break 69 minutes. Even if she had won the race in over 69 minutes, she would not have been happy.

According to Richard Finn, a member of the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon PR team, Kovalenko’s finishing time is a new women’s Ukraine Half Marathon record.

 

 DOROTA GRUCA, F11, VIKTORIYA KHAPILINA, F7,
AND HANAE TANAKA, F1, ON THE COURSE.
CLAY SHAW PHOTO
Results

Men

1. Stanley Biwott 59:36
2. Cybrian Kotut. 59:59
3. Edwin Kipyego. 1:00:04
4. Ghirmy Ghebreselassie 1:02:27
5. Abdellah Falil 1:02:44

Women

1. Lyudmyla Kovalenko. 1:08:59
2. Konjit Biruk 1:09:00
3. Hanae Tanaka 1:10:02
4. Tomomi Tanaka 1:10:03
5. Asami Kato . :10:21

 

 EMILY HULM, 1029, AND CHRISTINE RAMSEY, F49.
CLAY SHAW PHOTO