The neighboring countries of Kenya and Ethiopia had reason to cheer May 5th at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Brussels, Belgium.
Kenya's Paul Kosgei captured the men's championship in Brussels, while Ethiopia's Berhane Adere won the women's crown. The two African athletes overcame wet, slippery conditions in the Belgian capital to earn more glory for their respective countries, the dominant nations in long distance running.
In the men's race, Kosgei won a thrilling sprint finish with Moroccan Jaouad Gharib. The two ran stride for stride over the final seven kilometers of the course, before Kosgei surged ahead over the final 20 meters. His winning time: 60 minutes, 39 seconds. The Moroccan Gharib finished three seconds back, while John Yuda of Tanzania made it a clean African sweep by claiming third place.
In the women's race, Ethiopia's Berhane Adere won with a time of 69 minutes, six seconds. Kenya's Susan Chepkemei finished in second-place, and Latvia's Jelena Prokopcuka was third.
In winning the women's title, Berhane Adere survived a potentially dangerous brush with a male spectator who ran onto the course. After the race, Berhane said she was frightened by the incident, and feared she might fall.
Meanwhile, Kenya's Susan Chepkemei was one of several athletes who criticized the course, saying it was too tight and too narrow. The cold, steady rain that fell in Brussels made the course even more difficult for the competitors. In the team competition at the World Half Marathon Championships, Kenya swept both the men's and women's titles.