- At the World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland, Peres Jepchirchir broke the women-only record with her time of 1:05:16.
- In the men’s race, Jacob Kiplimo ran a course record in a time of 58:49 for the win.
- Several countries did not send athletes to compete this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Eritrea, Japan, and New Zealand.
Records fell at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships, where Peres Jepchirchir and Jacob Kiplimo had historic performances for their respective countries. Competing for Kenya, Jepchirchir broke the world record for the women-only race. An hour later, Kiplimo of Uganda set a new men’s championship record on Saturday in Gdynia, Poland.
Leading Kenya to a silver medal in the team race, Jepchirchir won world championship gold for the second time in her career. The 27-year-old kicked to victory past Melat Yisak Kejeta and Yalemzerf Yehualaw in the final stretch.
The 2016 half marathon world champion covered 13.1 in 1:05:16, breaking the world record for the women-only race, which she set while winning the 2020 Prague Half Marathon in 1:05:34. Kejeta and Yehualaw also ran faster than the previous record when they finished second and third, respectively.
“It’s unbelievable,” Jepchirchir told World Athletics. “My goal was to win this race. I did not expect that I would beat the world record, but I realized that it could happen when we passed 20K. It was a little bit windy, but the course was good for me.”
Prior to the homestretch battle, the women’s race saw several upsets. Around 9K, defending champion Netsanet Gudeta fell while rounding a turn and lost contact with the top group. Later in the race, world record-holder Ababel Yeshaneh and Joyciline Jepkosgei collided and crashed as well, leaving the remaining distance in the last lap to Jepchirchir, Kejeta, and Yehualaw.
Six women ran under 66 minutes and nine runners broke 67 minutes, an unprecedented group performance.
In addition to earning a silver medal, Kejeta of Germany set a new women-only European record of 1:05:18. Inside the top 15, Yasemin Can of Turkey, Fabienne Schlumpf of Switzerland, and Juliet Chekwel of Uganda also set national records.
In the team race, Ethiopia won gold by putting all three runners inside the top five. Kenya earned silver, and Germany took home bronze ahead of fourth-place Uganda.
Prior to the men’s race, all eyes were on 10,000-meter world champion Joshua Cheptegei, who set a new world record in the 10,000 meters 10 days prior to making his 13.1 debut. But his Ugandan teammate proved to be the best competitor on Saturday.
At 19 years-old, Kiplimo broke the championship record when he finished in 58:49, five seconds ahead of runner-up Kibiwott Kandie of Kenya. In the process, he became the first Ugandan runner in history to win the championship.
“I feel great, it was my first time at the World Half Marathon Championships and I won,” Kiplimo told World Athletics. “It is hard to explain, because I am full of emotion. Unbelievable. The weather was really good, as were the conditions and course. I’m so grateful for everyone who has supported me.”
The men’s race had a more conservative start in the first few miles, which worked in Kiplimo’s favor. The top group of about 20 runners came through 5K in 14:19 and increased the pace heading into 10K in 28:23, led by Cheptegei. In the third loop, Kandie began to separate himself from the pack with a 5K split of 13:54, the fastest lap of the race at this point. In the fourth lap, Kiplimo prevailed when he moved to the front ahead of Kandie, Amedework Walelegn of Ethiopia, and Cheptegei who trailed behind in fourth place with a time of 59:21.
“I couldn’t give more than that,” Cheptegei told World Athletics. “I have been training more for 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters, so I was not well prepared for it, but I’m very happy—running a sub-60 is really special for me. My body was really going very well, but I discovered I still had some fatigue in the legs.”
Kiplimo’s victory is his second half-marathon performance ever. On November 24, 2019, he set a national under 20 record by winning the Mountain Kampala Half Marathon in 1:01:53 at altitude. That same year, he finished second to Cheptegei at the World Athletics Cross-Country Championships.
In the team standings, Kenya won the title, Ethiopia finished second, and Uganda earned third-place overall. The men’s race also saw historic depth with 28 men finishing under 61 minutes.
Originally scheduled for March, the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships were postponed to October because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Following travel restrictions and safety precautions, several countries did not send athletes to compete this year, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Eritrea, Japan, and New Zealand.
Taylor Dutch is a sports and fitness writer living in Chicago; a former NCAA track athlete, Taylor specializes in health, wellness, and endurance sports coverage.
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