Letesenbet Gidey wins the Valencia Half Marathon (© NN Running Team)
Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey smashed the world record* at the Valencia Half Marathon Trinidad Alfonso EDP, clocking 1:02:52 on her debut at the distance at the World Athletics Elite Label road race on Sunday (24).
Competing in the same Spanish city where she broke the world 5000m record last year, Gidey took 70 seconds off the previous world record of 1:04:02 set by world marathon champion Ruth Chepngetich earlier this year.
In doing so, 23-year-old Gidey becomes the first woman to officially break the 64 and 63-minute barriers. She’s also the first debutante to set a world record for the distance.
Perfectly paced by her compatriot Mebrahtu Kiros, Gidey went through the opening 5km in 15:00, well inside world record pace, with her compatriot Yalemzerf Yehualaw running five metres down. Yehualaw drifted further back over the next few kilometres as Gidey reached 10km in 29:45 – the third-fastest clocking in history for the distance and just seven seconds shy of the world record set just a few weeks ago by Kalkidan Gezahegne.
While Yehualaw began to lose ground shortly afterwards, Gidey maintained her relentless rhythm to cover the next 5km segment in 14:44, reaching the 15km point in 44:29, barely nine seconds slower than her own world best for the distance.
Although her pace dropped very slightly in the last quarter of the race, Gidey had done more than enough to ensure victory in a world record time. She crossed the line in 1:02:52, adding a third world record to her name to go alongside the marks she owns for 5000m (14:06.62) and 10,000m (29:01.03).
Underscoring the quality of Gidey’s performance, she crossed the finish line alongside Spain’s Javier Guerra, a 2:07:27 marathon runner.
“I knew I could run this kind of time as my training sessions in the altitude of Addis Abeba have gone very well,” said an ecstatic Gidey, the Olympic bronze medallist and world silver medallist over 10,000m. “In future I’m thinking of competing at the marathon distance but I’m not sure that will come before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games or later.”
Yehualaw finished second in 1:03:51, also inside the previous world record. Kenya’s Sheila Chepkirui bettered her lifetime best by 45 seconds to complete the podium in 1:04:54.
The men’s race may not have witnessed a world record, but it still had record depth with an unprecedented seven men covering the distance within 59 minutes.
The leading group went through the opening 5km in 13:45, right on schedule for a 58-minute finishing time. Kenya’s world 10km record holder Rhonex Kipruto ran comfortably close to the pacemakers alongside compatriots Abel Kipchumba, Philemon Kiplimo, Felix Kipkoech, Daniel Mateiko and Kennedy Kimutai plus Ethiopia’s world 5000m champion Muktar Edris.
Surprisingly, the three pacemakers – Josphat Kiptoo Chumo, Emmanuel Maru and Evans Kipkemei Kurui – dropped out before the seventh kilometre and from then on the main favourites took turns in the lead to keep a swift pace. The 10km checkpoint was reached in 27:35, slightly outside their target, with Kipruto and 58:48 world leader Kipchumba making most of the pacing duties alongside the surprise package Mateiko, whose career best was 59:25 set in Copenhagen last month. At that point, 10 men still remained in the lead pack.
The first serious move came in the 12th kilometre when Mateiko, a training partner of Eliud Kipchoge, tried to break away from the rest but he was soon reeled in by the main contenders, who were now running in single file.
Shortly after reaching 15km in 41:16, Kipchumba moved to the front and only Kipruto could live with his pace. With about half a kilometre to go, Kipruto surged and gained a few metres on Kipchumba, but the latter never gave up and overtook Kipruto in the closing stages to win in a world-leading 58:07 with Kipruto taking second place in 58:09.
Kipchumba’s winning time elevates him to sixth on the world all-time list. Mateiko set a huge PB of 58:24 to secure a Kenyan sweep of the podium places.
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics
*Subject to the usual ratification procedure
1 Letesenbet Gidey (ETH) 1:02:52
2 Yalemzerf Yehualaw (ETH) 1:03:51
3 Sheila Chepkirui (KEN) 1:04:53
4 Brenda Jepleting (KEN) 1:05:44
5 Bosena Mulate (ETH) 1:06:00
6 Nigsti Haftu (ETH) 1:06:17
7 Hawi Feysa (ETH) 1:07:25
8 Sarah Lahti (SWE) 1:08:19
9 Fionnuala McCormack (IRL) 1:09:32
10 Camilla Richardsson (FIN) 1:10:51
1 Abel Kipchumba (KEN) 58:07
2 Rhonex Kipruto (KEN) 58:09
3 Daniel Mateiko (KEN) 58:26
4 Kennedy Kimutai (KEN) 58:28
5 Philemon Kiplimo (KEN) 58:34
6 Muktar Edris (ETH) 58:40
7 Mathew Kimeli (KEN) 58:43
8 Kelvin Kiptum (KEN) 59:02
9 Rodgers Kwemoi (KEN) 59:16
10 Felix Kipkoech (KEN) 59:28