The world half marathon championship 2003 in Portugal ()The world half marathon championship 2003 in Portugal () © Copyright

Why we love half marathons

The 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships hits the streets of Copenhagen on Saturday 29th March. Here are eight reasons why we adore this event.

1. We run the world

Unafraid to try something a little different, this year's race in Copenhagen gives recreational athletes the chance to compete in a world championship. For the first time, there will be 30,000 fun runners competing alongside 300 elite performers. Here's hoping for a late medal charge from Spiderman... 

2. Terrific Tadese

No athlete has left a greater imprint on the championships than Zersenay Tadese. The Eritrean 13.1-mile specialist triumphed five times between 2006 and 2012. Impressively, he secured gold under a range of conditions: from the hot and humid roads of Rio, to a damp circuit in Birmingham. He's also the world record holder.

Tadese Spikes ()

Half marathon man: Zersenay Tadese is the Usain Bolt of the roads.

3. Globetrotters

The half marathon champs have explored new and exotic territories in its quest to spread the magic of athletics. In the championships' 22-year history, races have been staged all over the place, from Mexico and China to India and Brazil. Even Kavarna in Bulgaria and Kosice in Slovakia have had a go.

4. Paula's path

Often the bridesmaid at the major champs, Paula Radcliffe shed her nearly-woman tag when she clinched the 2000 world half title in Mexico. Her victory in Velacruz ushered in an era in which she dominated women's road running. In 2003, Radcliffe won her third world half, in Portugal, AND set a marathon world record in London, which still stands today.

Paula Radcliffe | Portugal | World half marathon champs ()

Running away with it: Paula Radcliffe clear of the competition in 2003

5. One for the ages

In 2005, 19-year-old winner Fabiano Joseph capitalised on a Mubarak Hassan' Shami's error of misjudging the finish line and celebrating prematurely. The women's race was won by Romanian ironwoman Constantina Dita, who, aged 35, became the oldest ever winner. British-born two-time Paralympic medallist Mark Brown made history as the first athlete with a disability to compete at the championships. Competing for Gibraltar, he finished 78th in 2006.

6. Asian gains

The world's most populous continent has long been athletics' great underachiever, but in 2004 they made their mark at the half marathon champs. Delhi became the first Asian city to host the event, and the women's race was won China's Sun Yingjie, who set a national record en route to gold.

7. Go Team Tanzania

In an event long dominated by distance powerhouses Kenya and Ethiopia, their East African counterparts Tanzania proved the surprise package in 2003. Kenya's Martin Lel won the individual men’s race in Vilamoura, Portugal. But because Tanzanian athletes Fabiano Joseph, Martin Sulle and John Yuda finished second, third and fifth respectively, they snatched an unlikely team gold from Kenya by just 8 seconds.

8. Road legends

The list of winners reads like a Who's Who of endurance running. As well as Paula Radcliffe, previous victors include Paul Tergat, Tegla Loroupe and the great Haile Gebrselassie – all of whom have held marathon world records at some stage of their careers.