Joyciline Jepkosgei breaks the world half marathon record in Valencia (© Organisers)
Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei kept her stellar 2017 momentum alive at the Valencia Trinidad Alfonso Half Marathon, taking one second off her own world record* to win the IAAF Gold Label road race in 1:04:51 on Sunday (22).
After Saturday’s technical meeting, it became clear that a serious attack on her current world record was on the cards. A cautious Jepkosgei had commented there that she had been training well since running a world 10km record of 29:43 in Prague and was confident of running fast.
Kenya’s Ezekiel Kemboi was enlisted to pace Jepkosgei at a steady 3:05 per kilometre pace but the early splits proved to be even quicker than scheduled as the opening five kilometres were covered in a frantic 14:52, a time fast enough to finish inside 1:03. The brisk rhythm continued as the 23-year-old was timed at 30:09 at 10 kilometres, still well ahead of her own world record pace.
However, that kind of pace seemed to be self-defeating for a while as Jepkosgei’s rhythm clearly slowed down in the third five-kilometre section. Always running at Kemboi’s shoulder, the multiple world record-holder reached 15 kilometres in 45:59 which put her target in serious jeopardy; when she set the previous world record of 1:04:52 in Prague, she had clocked 45:37 at 15 kilometres.
But, to the delight of the crowd, Jepkosgei dug deep in the closing stages and by the 20-kilometre checkpoint, reached in 1:01:30, she was only five seconds in arrears of her world record goal. With a thrilling run down the final straight, Jepkosgei beat the clock and reached the finish line in 1:04:51 to set her sixth world record this year.
“It was my first race in Valencia, I enjoyed a lot, the weather is nice, the circuit is perfect to run fast,” said Jepkosgei, who will turn 24 in December. “I hope to come back in March for the World Half Marathon Championships.”
Fancy Chemutai and Lucy Cheruiyot joined Jepkosgei on the podium to get a clean sweep of medals for Kenya. The former, still 3 years of age, ran a massive career best of 1:05:38 to improve over one minute her previous best of 1:06:58. As for Cheruiyot, she finished seven seconds outside her PB in 1:07:30.
Today’s performance was the third women’s world half marathon record set on Spanish soil in recent years after Florence’s Kiplagat previous records of 1:05:12 and 1:05:09 in Barcelona in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Cheroben returns to winning ways
Bahrain’s Abraham Cheroben won the men’s race in 59:11, grabbing his third win in four years in Valencia.
The race kicked off at a steady 2:48-per-kilometre pace, powered by a group of three pacemakers and headed by Mathew Kisorio who went through the first five-kilometre check point in 14:00, just on schedule to break the 58:48 course record set by Cheroben in 2014.
Cheroben then surprisingly passed the pacemakers and took command of the race from the sixth kilometre. There were still 10 men in the leading group at the stage, but with 26 minutes on the clock, Cheroben put in another surge and was followed by the Ethiopian pair of Leul Gebrselassie Aleme and late addition Tsadik Fidaku Haftu, neither of whom had previously bettered 60 minutes for this distance.
The lead trio went through the 10-kilometre point in 27:54 with Cheroben still dictating the pace and the Ethiopians running in single file behind him. At the half-way stage, the biggest surprise was the fourth-placed runner, Norway’s Sondre Nordstad Moen. Despite moderate success at the continental level, Moen was relatively unheralded in global terms and headed into the race with a lifetime best of 1:02:19.
There were no major changes in the following kilometres as Aleme and Haftu never headed the race, leaving Cheroben with the burden of setting the pace throughout. As a result, the 15-kilometre split of 42:08 showed the speed had decreased a bit and the course record of 58:48 became an unreachable aim.
After cruising through 20 kilometres in 56:18, the decisive moment came with some 600 metres left when Cherono opened a sizeable gap on the Ethiopians to prove he was the strongest athlete today. He crossed the line in 59:11 while Aleme took the runner-up place in 59:17 to take more than a minute from his previous best. Haftu completed a classy podium in 59:21, also a massive improvement for him.
Moen obliterated his PB by more than two minutes, crossing the line in fourth place in a Norwegian record of 59:47, the second-fastest time in history by a European athlete on a record-eligible course. Multiple world and Olympic champion Mo Farah is the only European runner to have covered 13.1 miles in a faster time.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
*Subject to the usual ratification procedures
1 Abraham Cheroben (BRN) 59:11
2 Leul Gebresilase (ETH) 59:18
3 Fikadu Haftu (ETH) 59:22
4 Sondre Nordstad Moen (NOR) 59:48
5 Mustapha El Aziz (MAR) 1:00:50
6 Amanuel Mesel (ERI) 1:00:53
7 Justus Kangogo (KEN) 1:00:55
8 Mathew Kisorio (KEN) 1:01:15
1 Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) 1:04:51
2 Fancy Chemutai (KEN) 1:05:36
3 Lucy Cheruiyot (KEN) 1:07:31
4 Gelete Burka (ETH) 1:08:18
5 Paskalia Chepkorir (KEN) 1:09:08
6 Trihas Gebre (ESP) 1:09:57
7 Birhan Mhretu (ETH) 1:10:00
8 Azmera Gebru Hagos (ETH) 1:10:40