This year, running records have tumbled quicker than a Jenga tower on a fault line. We’ve had Kipchoge’s sub-two marathon and Brigid Kosgei’s 2:14:04 over the same distance. Last weekend in Valencia, it was the turn of the 10,000m. Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei ran a time of 26 minutes 38 seconds, improving on the previous record of 26 minutes 44 seconds held for ten years by Kenya’s Leonard Komon.
But who is Cheptegei? And why might a certain British distance legend be watching his ascent with interest?
Joshua Kiprui Cheptegei was born on 12 September 1996 in Kapsewui, Uganda. His first love was football, but he switched to running after discovering his aptitude for endurance racing.
Success soon followed. He won gold in the 10,000m at the World Junior Championships in Oregon, US, in 2014. This was followed in 2015 by gold over the same distance at the African Junior Championships.
Although he finished outside the medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics – finishing eighth in the 5,000m and sixth in the 10,000m – he won gold over both distances at the 2017 Commonwealth Games. More recently, he ran a world record for 15K in 2018 – 41 minutes 5 seconds – and triumphed over 10,000m at the World Championships in Doha earlier this year. Cheptegei is part of the NN Running team that also includes the Kenyan great Eliud Kipchoge.
So, he’s very much an athlete on the rise – something that his latest record, over 10,000m, confirms. His time of 26 minutes 38 seconds equates to 2 minutes 40 seconds per kilometre. He ran the first 5K in 13 minutes 24 seconds – a decent parkrun time by anyone’s standards – and then sped up, running the second 5K in 13 minutes 14 seconds.
Why this is particularly interesting from a British perspective is that Cheptegei is likely to be one of the main challengers to Sir Mo Farah’s 10,000m crown at next summer’s Olympics in Tokyo. Although Sir Mo, who last week announced his intention to run at Tokyo 2020, comfortably beat his young rival at Rio 2016, there’s no doubting he’ll be watching his progress with interest.
Farah will be 37 next summer – old for an elite 10,000m runner – and Cheptegei’s best run on the road is quicker than Mo’s best on the track. Farah, of course, has been there, done that and got the medal. He is a proven performer under pressure and has always found a way to win. Can he do the same in Tokyo? Or will it be a changing of the distance running guard? Either way, the 10,000m at Tokyo 2020 just got even more exciting.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.