What you need to know:
- World record times ‘possible’ given stellar field assembled for World Half Marathon Championships
- NTV will televise the championships, live, from 11am.
Last month, Peres Jepchirchir and Kibiwott Kandie took the Czech Republic by storm, blasting to victory at a special Prague Half Marathon to celebrate the return of road running from coronavirus lockdown in style.
While Kandie, Kenya’s national cross country champion, won the 21-kilometre race in a season’s fastest time of 58 minutes and 38 seconds, Jepchirchir went one better by taking the women’s title in a (women’s only race) world record time of 1:05:34.
Jepchirchir’s was the all-time third fastest women’s half marathon time, just behind the top two times clocked at the Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) Half Marathon in February — Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh’s (mixed gender race) world record 1:04:31 and Kenyan Brigid Kosgei’s 1:04:49.
Jepchirchir now predicts the possibility of another world record at Saturday’s World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, given the classy field assembled in the Polish port city. NTV will televise the championships, live, from 11am.
Former world record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei (1:04:51) is in the mix alongside compatriot Rosemary Wanjiru (1:05:34 at RAK this year), as is Ababel and her teammate and title holder Netsanet Gudeta who ran 1:05:45 at RAK last year.
Teamwork will be underlying factor
“There’s high expectations for the (fast) times tomorrow because we have strong athletes in the field,” Jepchirchir said in the pre-competition press conference on Friday.
“Ababel is here… she broke the (mixed race) world record this year in February. (Defending champion) Netsanet is here also, (former world record holder) Joyceline Jepkosgei is here also, and Rosemary… the field is strong.”
Jepchirchir is returning to these championships after a maternity break, having won the 2016 edition in Cardiff, Wales.
“God has done many things for me after Cardiff. In 2017, I ran a world record that existed for one month, but after that God also blessed me with a daughter, Natalia, who is turning three on 28th of this month,’’ the spiritual Jepchirchir said. “After that, God blessed me in Prague where I ran the women-only world record… God has done a lot for me this year.”
She added that teamwork will be the underlying factor for “Team Kenya.”
“I’m not running alone. We are going to run as a team. I know Ethiopians have prepared well, but even us, we have prepared well, and I know that gold will go to Kenya.”
Besides Kandie, Kenya’s men’s team consists of Leonard Barsoton, Bernard Kimeli, Benard Ngeno and Morris Munene.
The women’s category will be represented by Jepchirchir, Jepkosgei, Wanjiru, Dorcas Kimeli and Brillian Jepkorir.
Kenya will miss the services of defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor who pulled out of Gdynia due to an injury he sustained after he was knocked down by a motorcycle while training in August.
In his absence, the onus is on Kandie to lead Kenya’s charge.
“It is a tough race that needs a lot of calculations and having competed in Prague Half Marathon in a loop, I’m motivated to do better in the race and we shall attack the race as a team,” said Kandie.
Barsoton who finished 12th in the last edition, said that he doesn’t fear anyone, and has “a mission to accomplish.”
“I had a problem in Valencia (2018) which forced me to drop in the last few kilometres, but this year, I have done good training despite the challenges cause by coronavirus,” said Barsoton.
But Kenya will not have it easy given that Ugandans Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo are in good shape.
Uganda has never won any medal in the event and many will be waiting to see how Cheptegei will perform after good exploits recently where he broke the 5,000 and 10,000 metres world records on the track.
“It’s been my dream to make a debut in the half marathon, but it was already planned last year that I do the half marathon as a preparation towards the (Tokyo) Olympic Games,” Cheptegei explained at Friday’s pre-event press conference.
“Me and my coach and, of course, Global Sports Communication, sat down and said the World Half Marathon Championships was the best preparation towards the Olympic Games.
“But we were faced with adversity, with Covid-19, and there was a twist of events and things changed. We sat down and got the option of running in the Diamond League and trying to attach a couple of world records which I have achieved.
“I’ve been training well for my track events, like the 5,000m and 10,000m, but here’s another obstacle (the half marathon) which has come a few days after the (10,000m) world record, but I believe I’m a person of high talent and it will be a nice challenge for me.”
Others to focus on include Bahrain’s Abraham Cheroben who was second behind Kamworor in Valencia in 2018, Ethiopians Andamlak Belihu, Hailemaryam Kiros and Guye Adola.
World record holders
Also to watch is Switzerland’s Julien Wanders who has been training in Iten and is expected to give Kenyans a hard time in the race.
The women’s category will see current world record holders Jepchirchir and Ethiopian’s Ababel clash with the defending champion Netsanet.
They will be joined by former world record holder Jepkosgei.
Jepchirchir, who trains in Kapsabet, Nandi County, said that she has done good training and after winning in Prague and is highly motivated by the fact that they will do only four loops on the course.
“I’m happy that the course consists of four loops only unlike the Prague race where we ran for 19 loops.
“The team is strong but we have still competition from the Ethiopians and also the Ugandan athletes but we are going to do our best to get into the podium,” said Jepchirchir, who is also the team captain.
Wanjiru has been preparing for the race in Iten under the watchful eye of coach Boniface Kosgei, who is also her husband.
At Friday’s press conference, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe and Gdynia Deputy Mayor Bartosz Bartoszewicz both commended teams that made today’s championships possible despite the difficult conditions brought about by Covid-19.