After winning the 3000m at the IAAF Continental Cup Ostrava 2018 in a world-leading and national record 8:27.50, Sifan Hassan will turn her attention to the roads and will run the Copenhagen Half Marathon – a five star certified road race by European Athletics Running for All – next Sunday (16).
Hassan has not raced over anything longer than 5000m this year, the distance at which she set a European record of 14:22.34 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rabat in July, so she is approaching the race with a mixture of trepidation and curiosity.
“It will be my first race on the roads for a long time and I’m interested to see how it will go. All my training has been for the track but, as you can see, I am in good shape. I will have to try to pace myself and I am not quite sure of the strategy, but I will get some advice and I am sure it will be fun,” said Hassan, after her victory in Ostrava where she was racing for Team Europe.
It will have been almost five years since Hassan last raced on the roads so the change of surface will be metaphorically and perhaps literally, a shock to the system but Hassan is out to enjoy the experience.
“It’s not my first half marathon, I did one before back in 2011 when I was 18 years old and I had also just started running on the track. It was in Eindhoven and I ran almost flat out for the first two kilometres and then was dying at that point but I was determined to finish and did so. In fact, I won the race in around 77 minutes (actually 1:17:10).
“I’m expecting to do better in Copenhagen but I don’t know what time I will run,” she added, deliberately not raising expectations but it’s not unreasonable to expect that Hassan will do well on the super-fast course in the Danish capital.
The European best for the year is 1:08:58 by Lonah Chemtai Salpeter – the Israeli will return to racing in October and is currently mulling over her options over which half marathon to contest – when she finished as the first European at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia at the end of March.
However, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that Hassan could top that, although adding another Dutch record to her list of accolades might be a tall order. This record currently stands at 1:06:25 to Lornah Kiplagat, which was a world record when she ran it to win at the 2007 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Udine, Italy.
Hassan’s coach Alberto Salazar said last week that he could foresee her, “running between 69 and 70 minutes (in Copenhagen) although she has not been training specifically for a half marathon.”
However, Salazar advised that despite her run in the Copenhagen Half Marathon that her championship ambitions remain very much focused on the track for the next two years albeit at the longer distances. “I definitely see Sifan as very competitive in the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, and after that we shall have to wait and see,” said the American.
And while Hassan doesn’t look set to follow the pace at the very front of the elite women’s race on Sunday, the inclusion of the reigning European 5000m champion is still a boon for the organisers.
“Sifan Hassan is an amazing name to add to the line-up. She ranks among the greatest athletes in Europe and we are honoured that she has chosen the CPH Half to test herself over the half marathon distance”, said Copenhagen Half Marathon competition director Henrik Paulsen, when the announcement that Hassan had been added to the field was made on Friday.