Antrim Coast Half Marathon: Organisers’ delight as Gebrselassie confirms visit

Star runner Haile Gebrselassie will be leading the Ethiopian contingent at next month’s Antrim Coast Half Marathon programme in Larne.

The multiple World, Olympic champion, and former world record holder in every distance from 1500m to the marathon has been in contact with the organisers confirming his attendance at the World Athletics Elite label road race.

Race director Ruth McIlroy said: “Everyone connected with the race and Northern Ireland as a whole are delighted that Haile wants to attend this year’s event.

“He will be running the first Antrim Coast Classic Street Mile on the Saturday evening, and what an inspirational athlete to have running alongside the kids and adults alike. Since Yalemzerf’s (Yehualaw), run last year when she appeared to have become the first women to have broken the 64-minute barrier, our elite runners coming from Ethiopia has multiplied five-fold, but having Haile Gebrselassie now confirmed is something special, he’s loved wherever he goes.

Haile Gebresselassie.

“Yalemzerf’s coach Tessema Abshero paced many of Haile’s World Record attempts on the road, and Haile also acts as a mentor to Yalemzerf, so to have both Haile and Tessema along with Jo Pavey participate in our first mile will be something pretty special.”

Gebrselassie will also lend his insight on the day by joining the commentary team with the half marathon going out live on BBC iPlayer. The elite race for 2022 will have an avalanche of stars making an appearance along the Antrim coast and will be the strongest ever assembled in Ireland and one of the strongest ever in the UK.

The Ethiopian trio taking to the start line in the women’s race will include last year’s winner Yalemzerf Yehualaw, back for the second year in a row. The 22-year-old sensation comes to this year’s race having broken the women’s world record over 10km, taking 29 seconds off the previous best in a time of 29 min 14 seconds in Castellon France, and setting the fastest debut marathon ever, in a time of two hours 17 min 23 seconds, set in Hamburg back in April.

This surpasses Paula Radcliffe’s previous best. The organisers hope she can continue recent form at this year’s event and make an attempt on the world record for a second year.

Training Partner

Yalemzerf will be joined by her training partner Tsehay Gemechu. The 23-year-old Ethiopian comes to this year’s race with a personal best of 65 mins 08 seconds and has been winner of the prestigious Lisbon half marathon two years in a row and Copenhagen half marathon in 2021.

Along with Tsehay debuting at this year’s event will be Gete Alemayehu, who recorded 66 min 37 seconds for second in the Barcelona half marathon in April this year.

Beatrice Chepkemoi of Kenya with a personal best of 67 min 29 seconds will make it four women who have run under 67 minutes 30 seconds confirmed for the World Athletics half marathon on August 28.

The men’s race sees the first eight finishers from the 2021 race return for a second year. Ethiopian record holder and last year’s winner, Jemal Yimer is the fastest in the race with a personal best of 58 min 33 seconds.

Yimer recorded the fastest debut half marathon of all time in 2018 when he ran 59 minutes 00 seconds in Ras Al Khaimah before going on to win the Valencia half marathon in the same year.

Jemal comes into the race off the back of a two hours eight minutes at the Boston marathon back in April and a personal best of 27 min 49 seconds over 10km in Atlanta Georgia last weekend.

Ethiopian Tesfahun Akalnew, second in last year’s race, has subsequently recorded a two-hour six-minute marathon in Amsterdam and will be looking to go one better than last year, while also getting under the 60-minute barrier.

With eight Africans already confirmed in the men’s race who have run under sub 60 minutes it will give the British duo Marc Scott (60 min 35 sec) and Callum Hawkins (60 min 00 sec) the perfect opportunity to break the 60-minute barrier and get close to Sir Mo Farah’s British record of 59 min 32 seconds.

Team Confirmation

Northern Ireland, Ireland, England and Scotland will all confirm their teams for the race next week, but a strong line up is guaranteed with 120 runners already confirmed in the elite race, which is double the size of last year and coming from 16 nationalities.

Entries are now open for both the Classic Street Mile, kids’ mile run and half marathon via the website www.antrimcoasthalfmarathon.com

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