PARKERSBURG - In the history of The News and Sentinel Half Marathon, only two men have won the 13.1-mile race three times-Kenya's Godfrey Kiprotich in 1992, ''94 and '95 and Ethiopia's Alene Reta from 2007-09.
One of them, Reta, will look to become the race's first four-time champion when he returns for the 8 a.m. start on Saturday, Aug. 18.
The 30-year-old runner made his mark in 2007 when he overcame the challenge of Kenyan Reuben Chebil, who finished in a time of 1 hour, 2 minutes and 51 seconds, to win his first Parkersburg race by 12 seconds (1:02:39). He was far from finished, however, returning in 2008 and winning with a time of 1 hour, 2 minutes and 52 seconds.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Three-time champion Alene Reta will headline the men’s field when the 26th News and Sentinel Half Marathon starts at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18. The 30-year-old Ethiopian missed last year’s race with an injury, but will be among the favorites at this year’s race.
A year later, Reta would add his name to the record book when he covered the 13.1-mile race in 1 hour, 4 minutes and 15 seconds to cross the finish line ahead of the pack and join Kiprotich as a three-time winner.
Winning a fourth may not be easy, especially if race director Chip Allman has his way.
"I'm in contact with Julius Kogo's agent and we are hoping to have him back in the field," explained Allman. "That would give us last year's winner and course record holder (Kogo) going up against one of our three-time winners in Reta.
"That's definitely a matchup I would like to see."
Even if Kogo, who defeated Reta for his first title in 2010, fails to return for a chance at a repeat, the field for the 26th edition of the race appears to be building to its accustomed tough core of runners.
"It (the field) isn't where I would like it yet," said Allman. "But, I still have some time to add some runners and we are in contact with agents throughout the country and overseas."
A trio of additions are Ethiopians Tariku Bokan, Eyob Alemu and Folisho Tum. Bokan is coming off of an impressive victory at the 2012 Ogden Half Marathon in Wheeling. Alemu enters his first Parkersburg race with a personal best of 1:03.1 in the half marathon while Tum recently won the Philly Marathon.
"There are a few unknowns that we aren't sure if they can run the times that they have sent us because they were accomplished at races that were held in other countries,''Allman said. " he potential is there, but we still have a way to go to put together a field as tough as the ones we have had in the past."
The women's field, however, is as strong as any in past years.
Defending champion Malika Mejdoub of Morocco is back, but the 30-year-old will have her work cut out as the field already includes at least eight women who have bettered Mejdoub's 2011 winning time of 1 hour, 14 minutes and 45 seconds.
"The women's field is looking very strong," Allman said. "There are a lot of very solid runners. We've got two runners from Japan and two from Russia as well as a woman from Ethiopia who has run a 1:11."
The two long distance runners from the "Land of the Rising Sun" are Asami Kato, who posted a personal best 1:11:21 while winning the 2012 Sendai International Half Marathon, and Sakiko Matsumi, whose personal best of 1:12:13 was accomplished at the 2009 National Corporate Half Marathon Championships.
Leading this year's Russian contingent is 41-year old Livbov Denisova. The resident of Gainsville, Fla., has posted a personal best time of 1 hour, 11 minutes and 15 seconds in the 13.1-mile distance while Kseniya Agafonova posted a 1:14:24 in placing sixth at the EDP Half Marathon of Lisbon, Portugal, in 2010.
Add in 32-year old Ethiopian Aliyu Aziza, who has a personal best of 1:11:15, and fellow Ethiopians Hirut Mandefro (1:12), Hirut Beyene (1:12:07) and Tezeta Dengersa (1:13:20) and it is easy to understand why Allman is excited about this year's field.
"About the only thing I would like to see right now is a few more American elites added to the field. It seems like, especially in the men's, that our American field suffers when it is an Olympic year."
With more than a month until the race begins, there is still plenty of time for agents, or runners, to contact Allman to see about being added to the list.