What you need to know:
- The 29-year-old Olympic 1,500 metres champion is the poster girl of this weekend’s competition and the form that saw her strike double gold in the 1,500 and 5,000 metres races at last month’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest - after shattering world records earlier on in the two events alongside the mile - makes her red-hot favourite.
In Riga, Latvia
The world could see yet another world record from indefatigable Kenyan star Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon when the inaugural World Athletics Road Running Championships launch in the Latvian capital on Sunday.
The 29-year-old Olympic 1,500 metres champion is the poster girl of this weekend’s competition and the form that saw her strike double gold in the 1,500 and 5,000 metres races at last month’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest - after shattering world records earlier on in the two events alongside the mile - makes her red-hot favourite.
While the World Half Marathon Championships have existed previously, Riga is hosting the first edition of combined competitions over the mile, five kilometres and half marathon (21km) distances.
Competition will also be open to recreational runners who have purchased race entry tickets.
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe on Friday said as a sign of the event’s popularity, the global athletics governing body’s Council had voted to have the World Athletics Road Running Championships as an annual fixture from 2025 with the next two editions being held in San Diego, USA, in 2025 and Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2026.
He appealed to fans in Riga to line up and celebrate the great Kipyegon who will feature in the mile race on the streets of the Latvian capital on Sunday alongside teammate Nelly Chepchirchir.
The World Athletics President described Kipyegon as “arguably the greatest female athlete ever.”
Speaking at the pre-event press conference in Riga, Coe said he and World Athletics CEO Jon Ridgeon were privileged to see Kipyegon break the 1,500m (three minutes, 49.11 seconds) and 5,000m (14:05.20) world records just days apart in the Florence and Paris Diamond League meetings in June.
The Kenyan later shattered the track mile record, running 4:07.64 in Monaco on July 21.
“Faith is an outstanding athlete,” Briton Coe, himself a middle-distance Olympic champion, world record holder and legend, said in Riga yesterday.
“I had the great privilege of seeing her break her very first world record in Florence and Jon Ridgeon, our CEO, had the pleasure of seeing her just one week later in Paris break the women’s 5,000 metres record.
“We have witnessed not just records, but an extraordinary season, so the message to the people of Riga is ‘get out there on the side of the road and watch an athlete that in any generation is as good as they get.'
“She (Kipyegon) is an outstanding athlete and at this moment, you will be hard-pushed not to say that she’s arguably the best female athlete regardless of distance or discipline,” Coe, said, hinting at endorsing Kipyegon as the undisputed World Athletics Female Athlete of the Year for 2023.
Kipyegon joined the Kenyan team in Riga on Friday and attended the press conference but didn’t field any media questions with two-time world half marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir declaring herself injury-free and on the cusp of completing a hat-trick of world half marathon titles after her victories in 2016 (Cardiff, United Kingdom) and 2020 (Gdynia, Poland).
Only Kenya’s Tecla Loroupe (1997-99), Kenya-born Dutchwoman Lornah Kiplagat (2006-08) and Briton Paula Radcliffe (2000, 2001 and 2003) have won the global 21km title three times.
“It will not be easy to defend my title because the competition will be tough, but I will try my best…,” Jepchirchir, who is also the Olympic marathon champion and winner of the New York (2021) and Boston (2022) marathons, said.
“I have been focusing on the marathon more than the half marathon, but I will try my very best on Sunday,” the Kenyan star, who noted that she was inspired into running by Loroupe, added.
Saturday will be a fun day for young running enthusiasts with the big show set for Sunday from 10am.
World Road Running Championships programme (Kenyan times):
10am - 8pm: World Championships EXPO Expo;
10am – 3pm: Kids’ Day;
10am: 5km mass race;
11.30am: Road mile, mass race;
11.50am: 5km, elite women;
12.15pm: 5km, elite men
1pm: Road mile, elite women
1.10 Road mile, elite men
1.30pm: Half marathon, elite women
2.15pm: Half marathon, elite men
2.15pm: Half marathon, mass race
2.15pm: Half marathon, relay mass race
Team Kenya to the World Road Running Championships:
Elite women’s road mile:
Faith Kipyegon, Nelly Chepchirchir;
Elite men’s road mile:
Reynold Cheruiyot, Kyumbe Munguti;
Elite women’s 5km:
Beatrice Chebet, Lilian Kasait;
Elite men’s 5km:
Nicholas Kimeli, Cornelius Kemboi;
Women’s half marathon:
Peres Jepchirchir, Irene Kamais, Catherine Reline, Margaret Chelimo, Janeth Chepng’etich;
Men’s half marathon:
Bernard Kibet, Samuel Nyamai Mailu, Sebastian Kimaru Sawe, Daniel Ebenyo Simiu, Charles Kipkirui Langat.