McColgan breaks habit of a lifetime

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The Independent Online
Liz McColgan learned how to give up yesterday when she failed to finish the World Half-Marathon Championship. In 20 years of running, it is the first time that the Scot, renowned for her toughness, has dropped out of a race.

McColgan was hoping to regain the world title which she won in 1992, but throughout the 10 miles which she completed in yesterday's race, she was always under pressure, chasing after the eventual winner, Ren Xioujuan of China.

McColgan was in seventh place, about half a minute behind Ren, when she came to a tight hairpin turn just past half-way. Slowing almost to a walk to negotiate the corner, McColgan aggravated an old injury in her right hip.

"It was like my leg was dragging," she said. "I couldn't race after the others as I wanted to, and it would have been a waste of time just finishing seventh or eighth. I wasn't prepared to risk making the injury worse with the Tokyo Marathon coming up in seven weeks."

The palm trees which line the esplanade of the Mediterranean island resort offered little shade to the runners as the morning temperature touched 30C, conditions which saw one of the British team, Heather Heasman, admitted to hospital with heat exhaustion.

Ren's victory was a familiar Chinese tale of hard racing and esoteric medical practice. Since China's female runners burst on to the world scene three years ago, stories have abounded about their rigorous training regimes and unusual diet, which have included drinking turtle blood and eating caterpillar fungus.

Ren maintained the trend when she complained about her winning time of 70min 39sec, claiming to have run 67 minutes in training - faster than McColgan's world best. But Ren, a 22-year-old economics student from Liaoning province, explained that having won her national 5,000 and 10,000 metres titles less than a week ago, and having since suffered from a cold, she was feeling a little weary.

She said that three large bruise marks prominent on her neck were nothing more than the result of another unusual traditional Chinese remedy. She had certainly not "choked" during the race.

Stefano Baldini led Italy to an individual and team double in the men's race, where Dave Swanston, in 22nd place, was the first Britain, and the only one to break 65 minutes.

WORLD HALF-MARATHON CHAMPIONSHIPS (Palma, Majorca): Men: 1 S Baldini (It) 1hr 01min 17sec; 2 J Kiprono (Ken) 1:01:30; 3 T Chimusasa (Zim) 1:02:00; 4 C De La Torre (Sp) 1:02:03; 5 T Hayata (Japan) 1:02:05; 6 N Tluway (Tanz) 1:02:30. GB: 22 D Swanston 1:03:44; 41 C Robison 1:05:10; 62 P Makepeace 1:06:36; 88 D Tune 1:09:26. Team: 1 Italy 3:07:42; 2 Spain 3:08:36; 3 Japan 3:8:43; 11 Great Britain 3:15:30. Women: 1 R Xiujuan (Ch) 1:10:39; 2 L Simon (Rom) 1:10:57; 3 A Buia (Rom) 1:11:01; 4 N Olaru (Rom) 1:11:07; 5 K Haginaga (Japan) 1:11:18; 6 C Mallo (Fr) 1:12:24. Selected: 13 Z Budd- Pieterse (SA) 1:13:19. GB: 29 S Goldsmith 1:15:33; 45 D Sanderson 1:16:56; 48 H Nash 1:17:45. Team: 1 Romania 3:33:05; 2 France 3:38:44; 3 Italy 3:41:28; 9 Great Britain 3:50:14.