Nero wins, Towett repeats at 'UWI SPEC' half marathon
Kenyan-born George Towett and Trinidad and Tobago's Tonya Nero made it a race against the clock in claiming the Men's and Women's Divisions respectively of the Ninth Annual UWI SPEC International Half Marathon in St Augustine yesterday.
It was Towett's third title in seven years.
And top local female long distance runner Nero became the first T&T national to win a title at the event, which has been dominated by foreigners since it started.
Twenty-eight year old Towett battled very humid and tough conditions yesterday to breast the finishing tape in one hour, eight minutes and 24 seconds, almost two minutes slower than his winning time last year (1:06:41).
But Towett had to battle little else, especially rivals.
After Olympian Jehue Gordon fired the pistol to start the race at 6 a.m. sharp, the US-based runner made his surge past local runners Ronnie Holassie (who failed to finish), Richard Jones, Curtis Cox and Matthew Hagley, a little after the mile mark.
When no one went with Towett, the race was over as a contest and he kept increasing his lead consistently with strong breaths and smooth cadence.
His fastest mile was his second, in which he clocked four minutes 40 seconds, before registering a 4:50 for the third. His pace gradually petered out to a 5:07 average for the next five miles — which included a 33-minute timing for the halfway mark and turnaround mark in D'Abadie. On the return leg — Bon Air, Tacarigua, Macoya, all the way back to UWI's St Augustine campus — Towett registered 5:08, 5:12 and 5:08 for miles 9 through 12 before the final push home. It was a sign of how Towett had found it increasingly difficult to keep pace.
But with Jones and company stretched out by the early speed, they were just scrambling for the minor places.
Towett entered the final stretch to applause. Jones, who wore down Denzil Ramirez around the ten-mile mark to take sole possession of second, was more than a minute behind (1:09:42). Third was the improved Matthew Hagley (1:10:05), with Curtis Cox (1:10:28) and Ramirez (1:11:17) following in fourth and fifth respectively.
After the race, Towett said although he tried to pick up the pace.
"I was struggling and just was not feeling good. I felt very tired before the halfway mark. My plan was to go under five minutes for every mile, but my body was not feeling good and I started to slow down," he said.
Towett said he deliberately shot to the front because last year he thought he went out too slow, and that cost him the record of 1:05:07, a record he missed by only six seconds in 2006.
"I tried, but it was not good enough," he said.
The 23-year-old Nero (1:18:19) was even more convincing a victor than Towett.
The closest female finisher was Celine Lestrade, who was almost 20 minutes behind (1:35:05) and Lestrade was comfortably clear of third-place finisher Juliet John-Sambrano. But Nero had fallen short of her national record one hour 15 minutes and 13 seconds set at World Half Marathon Championships, in Kavarna, Bulgaria on October 6.
But the disappointment of not lowering the national standard would have been eased somewhat by a very tough run in which her pace flattened out in the final four miles. —Mark Pouchet