Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2018 but she is hoping that her 2019 campaign will be even better ahead of the 21st edition of the Sportismo Prague Half Marathon, a five-star certified road race by European Athletics Running for All, on Saturday (6).
“I’m working with a clear goal: by the end of this year I wish to join the best in the world, time and ranking wise,” Chemtai Salpeter told European Athletics in the days leading up to the Prague Half Marathon which is expected to attract a field of nearly 12,000 runners.
Chemtai Salpeter came to prominence on the track with two excellent wins over 10,000m - first at the European 10,000m Cup in London where she clocked a European-lead and Israeli record of 31:33.03 before winning her first major title over the same distance at the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships.
Her performances on the track were excellent but her exploits on the roads were arguably even more accomplished. While many of her rivals on the track were taking a break after the summer campaign, Chemtai Salpeter raced extensively through the autumn with fast times over 10-miles (50:45) and half marathon (67:55) ahead of a victory in the Florence Marathon where she moved to the top of the European list with 2:24:17.
Chemtai Salpeter has started her season in similar form with victory in the Rome Ostia Half Marathon in 66:40 where she had to battle strong winds. That time will not be ratified as a national record due to the nature of the Rome to Ostia course but Chemtai Salpeter has ambitions on the clock when she races on one of the world’s fastest half marathon courses on Saturday.
“I’m realistically seeing the possibility to improve my PB and will aim to win the race on Saturday which I know will not be an easy task because of the high level women’s field,” said Chemtai Salpeter, who faces opposition from her former Kenyan teammates Fancy Chemutai and Caroline Kipkirui and world marathon bronze medallist Amy Cragg from the United States among others.
Whatever her finishing time might be, her race on Saturday will serve as a useful exercise in orientation ahead of her main goal of the spring road racing season: the Volkswagen Prague Marathon on 5 May, another five-star certified road race by European Athletics Running for All.
“I’m pleased with my preparation so far,” she said. “Everything has gone very well in my opinion. I have improved progressively in my training and as a consequence I ran well in the half marathon in Rome-Ostia.
“After the Prague Half Marathon I will return immediately to altitude in Kenya for the final three weeks of my marathon preparation which will include one or two important long runs and a few maintenance workouts and sharpening towards the race.”
Chemtai Salpeter made a sizeable improvement in Florence last year, slicing more than 15 minutes off her lifetime best to break the tape in 2:24:17 - a time made all the more impressive by the inclement conditions on offer and the challenging nature of the course. The second half features a series of hills but Chemtai Salpeter still recorded a negative split en route to the course record.
Naturally Chemtai Salpeter believes the ceiling for improvement is still quite high in the marathon. “My aim for the Prague Marathon is to win the race and break the course record,” she said.
The course record stands at 2:21:57 to Kenya’s Valary Jemeli and that time will be on Chemtai Salpeter’s mind when she toes the start-line in the Czech capital on 5 May.
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