5b74909331158210VgnVCM200000e66411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2010-02Chaos mars Zayed Half Marathon4b74909331158210VgnVCM200000e66411ac____Chaos mars Zayed Half MarathonWhile the run for the international runners went off well, the athletes in other categories had to undergo severe confusion with 20,000 schoolchildren littering the route.<p>Tilahun Regassa, the 19-year-old Ethiopian and world women's No 1 Mary Keitany, of Kenya, went home US$300,000 (Dh1.1 million) richer after winning their categories in the Zayed International Half Marathon yesterday.
Their success was the highlight of a day in which more than 20,000 schoolchildren created havoc among the runners in other races that started at the breakwater
behind Marina Mall and finished at the Emirates Palace hotel.
While the half marathon for the international runners went off well, athletes in the 6km races for men and women complained of confusion.
The Russian, Elena Zadarozhiya, who was fourth in the 5,000 metre race at the 2004 Olympic Games, missed the 6km race along with several others. Those who did compete said they struggled to avoid the children and claimed some participants cut short the course.
"The race time was changed the previous night but the athletes were not informed. Elena was still warming up when she heard the race had already got under way," Zadarozhiya's manager, Volker Wagner, said.</p>
<p>"The organisers of the race have thrown big bucks at prize money, but they also need to bring these events to an international level if they want to move forward.
"There are lot of areas to be improved and I hope they will take a good look at all the drawbacks and make this a premier distance event in the future."
According to a statement from Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, the event will be a full marathon from next year.
The Jordanian runners, Salama al Akra and Mohammed al Suwaithi, said they were denied a good finish placing as several competitors cut short the distance.
"There were no officials to see them off and the thousands of kids made it even worse. They were all over the place and we had to avoid them in every step we took," said al Akra.
"We are travelling to the Mumbai Marathon next week and thought this was a good preparation. But it has turned out to be a really big disappointment."</p>
<p>Lamya Wahid, a Moroccan athlete based in Abu Dhabi, shared the same sentiment.
"I have never seen such chaos as here. The athletes had no place to rest after the race and most of the organisers weren't interested on the welfare of the runners, which was quite sad," said Wahid.
Regassa, the men's winner, clocked a personal best of 59mins and 19secs. "This is the biggest pay cheque I have ever had and I hope this win will change my career for the better," he said.
"It was a strong race and the Kenyan runners set the early pace. I kept going with them and kicked for home and didn't find any challenge in that final half-kilometre."
The Kenyan, Sammy Kitwara, chased him home ahead of the Ethiopian, Lelisa Desisa.</p>
<p>Keitany lived up to her favourite billing by claiming the women's race in one hour, seven minutes and 14 seconds ahead of compatriot Philes Moraa Ongori and the Ethiopian runner Dire Tune.
"I am just happy to win," said the Kenyan world No 1, who was head of the pack throughout. "I had a good lead after nine kilometres and had only the men ahead of me. I will hopefully be back next year."
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