Looking for four in a row

PARKERSBURG-During its 26-year run through the city streets, the News and Sentinel Half Marathon has witnessed some historic events.

But, never have the thousands of fans that line the 13.1-mile course seen a four-time winner.

That may change on Saturday, Aug. 17, as three-time defending champion Julius Kogo has added his name to the field of elite runners that will challenge for the race’s 27th title.

“Any time you can bring back a defending champion, it’s exciting,” race director Chip Allman said. “Add to the fact that he is the course record holder and has been the most dominant runner we have had over the years, makes it even more exciting.”

Kogo, who established a course record of 1 hour, 1 minute and 47 seconds in 2011, joined Alene Reta (2007-09) and Godfrey Kiprotich (1992, 94-95) as the race’s only three time winners.

Adding a fourth championship, along with the $3,000 first place purse, may not be so simple in 2013.

“The men’s field is real strong this year and I hope to add Alene Reta to it,” continued Allman.

A field that includes 29-year olds Julius Kibet Koskei and Eric Kipkemei Chirchuir, 30-year old Mourad Marofit, and 32-year old Lamech Mokona Mosoti. All four have clocked times of 62 minutes or less at the half marathon distance. But will that be enough to unseat Kogo, who breezed to a 38-second victory over Reta a year ago?

All four enter this year’s race with impressive credentials.

Koskei, a Kenyan, has posted some fast times this season, placing third at both the 10K Azalea Trail Run in Mobile, Ala. (29:22) and Woodlands Half-Marathon in Texas (1:04.42) while Moroccan Marofit has posted a personal best of 1 hour, 1 minute and 43 seconds in the 13.1-mile distance.

Chirchuir and Mosoti, also Kenyans, are not far behind with personal bests 1:01.53 and 1:02.0, respectively.

Allman is continuing to receive interests from runners and walkers for the Aug. 17 event, which highlights the weekend Parkersburg Homecoming celebration.

“The men’s American field will be strong with the addition of Tonny Okello, Patrick Cheptoek, Abdelaziz Atmani, Nik Schweikert and Josh Ordway all having run 1:05 or better,” said Allman.

No commitment has yet been received from defending women’s champion Asami Kato. The 21-year old became the first runner from Japan to win a title here when she crossed the Market Street finish line in a time of 1 hour, 12 minutes and 57.3 seconds.

While Kato has yet to return, that doesn’t mean the field will be completely without talent as 29-year old Lyudmila Stepanova, 21-year old Hirut Beyene Guangul and 33-year old Debellu Shitaye Gemechu have elected to toe the Juliana Street starting line for the 8 a.m. start.

Guangul will be looking to improve on her fifth place finish a year ago (1:14.35) while Gemechu and Stepanova have posted personal best times of 1:11.07 and 1:14.0, respectively.

Applications for both the half marathon and the 2-mile race, as well as the youth races to be held at the Erickson All-Sports Facility on Sunday afternoon, will continue to be accepted until Friday, Aug. 16. Interested runners and walkers can register online at