Joyciline Jepkosgei wins the Barcelona Half Marathon (© Organisers)
Former world record-holders Kibiwott Kandie and Joyciline Jepkosgei secured a Kenyan double at the Edreams Mitja Zurich Marato Barcelona, a World Athletics Gold Label road race, on Sunday (11).
Held in pleasant weather conditions (10C and no wind) Jepkosgei took eight seconds off the course record by clocking 1:04:29 to move to sixth on the world all-time list. Kandie, the second-fastest man in history for the distance, triumphed with a 59:22 clocking after being challenged by his compatriot Roncer Konga for much of the race.
After the withdrawal of 2019 world marathon champion Ruth Chepngetich, the women’s event became a duel between Jepkosgei and Ethiopia’s Senberi Teferi. That duo, along with Kenya’s Gladys Chepkirui, followed the pacemaker through the opening five kilometres in a brisk 15:19.
Jepkosgei and Teferi then broke away and reached the 10km checkpoint in 30:19, 21 seconds ahead of Chepkirui. Further back, Britain’s Jessica Warner-Judd was in fourth position, passing through 10km in 31:32 and well on schedule to improve her lifetime best.
Jepkosgei and Teferi continued their relentless rhythm throughout the second half of the race, clocking 45:34 for 15km, almost a full minute ahead of Chepkurui (46:30) with the Briton a further minute adrift.
The key moment came during the 18th kilometre when 2015 world 5000m silver medallist Teferi could no longer keep with Jepkosgei’s 3:03/km cadence and gradually lost ground. By 20km (1:01:02), Jepkosgei had a solid 14-second lead on her rival and was on pace to break the course record of 1:04:37, set last year.
The 2018 world half marathon silver medallist crossed the line in a course record of 1:04:29, also improving her lifetime best – set when finishing second here last year – by 17 seconds. Teferi finished second but was rewarded with a big PB of 1:04:40 to move to 10th on the world all-time list.
Chepkurui completed a classy podium in 1:06:34 and Warner-Judd was fourth in a PB of 1:07:07.
“I finished second here last year, so I was determined to win today,” said Jepkosgei, whose winning time is also a world-leading mark. “The course record and PB are bonuses.”
The men’s contest kicked off at a moderate 2:53/km cadence with all the main favourites in close attendance in the guise of Kandie, his compatriots Hillary Kipkoech, Emmanuel Moi Maru, Roncer Konga, Mathew Kimeli and Ethiopians Dinkalem Ayele and Chindessa Debele Gudeta. Swedish debutant Andreas Almgren, four weeks after his national 10km record of 27:20 in Valencia, was also in the pack.
After an opening 5km of 14:22, the second section was covered in a quicker 13:49 but the large lead group still remained intact. Once the pacemaker had finished his job, it was the relatively unheralded Konga who broke away from the pack while three-time Valencia Half Marathon winner Kandie decided to remain in the chasing group.
Konga had built an 11-second advantage over his pursuers by the 15km checkpoint (42:02), but Kandie, Kipkoech, Ayele, Maru, Kimeli and Almgren all had Konga in their sights.
Kandie, who lowered his marathon PB to 2:04:48 in Valencia two months ago, made a move with two kilometres to go and soon managed to catch Konga. The duo ran together for just over half a kilometre before Kandie found another gear to pull away and secure victory in 59:22.
Former track specialist Almgren overtook Konga and Ayele in the closing stages to finish just one second behind Kandie in a national record of 59:23, making him the second-fastest European of all time.
Konga managed to hold on to third place in 59:28, two seconds ahead of Ayele.
“When Konga broke away, I preferred to stay quiet and relaxed,” said Kandie, who has been training in Xiamen for most of January. “I was confident of winning in the end and it finally happened.”
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics
1 Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) 1:04:29
2 Senbere Teferi (ETH) 1:04:40
3 Gladys Chepkurui (KEN) 1:06:34
4 Jessica Warner-Judd (GBR) 1:07:07
5 Abbie Donnelly (GBR) 1:09:10
1 Kibiwott Kandie (KEN) 59:22
2 Andreas Almgren (SWE) 59:23
3 Roncer Kipkorir Konga (KEN) 59:28
4 Dinkalem Ayele (ETH) 59:30
5 Hillary Kipkoech (KEN) 59:37