ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) _ Defending champion Tegla Loroupe and Paul Koech were the winners at the World Half Marathon Championships Sunday, giving Kenya a sweep of the titles for the second straight year.
Under cool, gray skies, Loroupe covered the 13.1-mile course through the hilly Swiss countryside in 1 hour, 8 minutes, 29 seconds. She is the first runner to successfully defend a title in the meet’s seven-year history.
Koech broke away midway through the men’s race, overcoming a tough field to finish in 1:00:01, 23 seconds ahead of his closest rival.
South Africa’s Hendrick Ramaala was second at 1:00:24, followed by 1994 champion Khalid Skah of Morocco in the identical time.
Loroupe, the women’s world marathon record-holder, set the pace from the start, breaking away about 3 miles into the race.
South African Elana Meyer, the 1994 champion who failed to finish last year after staying with Loroupe for 6.2 miles, hung on this time, staying close for most of the race.
But with about a mile left, Loroupe broke away and Meyer was unable to make up a three-second deficit.
``With about a kilometer and a half to go, I decided to pull away from Elana,″ Loroupe said. ``She was tough, but I knew at the end I had more kick left in me.″
Meyer was pleased with her silver medal.
``Today, silver was worth gold for me,″ Meyer said. ``Last year I had so many injuries. I feel lucky I was able to come back and have such a tough competition with Tegla.″
In the men’s race, Koech made it look easy.
He made his move at about 7 1/2 miles, pulling away from Skah and the Ethiopian trio of Ibrahim Seid, Alene Emere and Alemayehu Girma.
``The pace was too slow,″ Koech said. ``So I decided to speed up to a more comfortable pace for me. When I saw a few others pushing up to come with me, I went a little faster. I couldn’t see anybody behind me after that.″
Last year’s champion, Kenyan Shem Kororia, finished 10th Sunday.
Ronaldo da Costa, who broke the 10-year-old world marathon record last week at Berlin, finished 12th at 1:01:40.