What you need to know:
- The Latvian capital, known for its rich history and cultural attractions, will see action in the mile, five kilometres and half marathon races, with 151 women and 197 men in elite action.
- Kenya is represented by a strong team that includes medallists from last month’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest, led by Faith Kipyegon, Beatrice Chebet and Daniel Simiu.
In Riga, Latvia
The inaugural World Athletics Road Running Championships get underway here on Sunday with a total of 348 athletes from 57 countries expected to line up and chase the medals.
The Latvian capital, known for its rich history and cultural attractions, will see action in the mile, five kilometres and half marathon races, with 151 women and 197 men in elite action.
Kenya is represented by a strong team that includes medallists from last month’s World Athletics Championships in Budapest, led by Faith Kipyegon, Beatrice Chebet and Daniel Simiu.
Mass races will be held alongside the elite world competitions and will provide an opportunity for recreational runners to earn World Championship medals and also to run on the championship courses.
Five-kilometre and mile races for the masses will open the roads Sunday morning from 10am local time, which is the same as Kenyan time, before elites hit the tarmac at 11.50am with the women’s 5km race where Kenya will be represented by world cross country champion Beatrice Chebet and Lilian Kasait, the national 5,000m champion.
Kenyan interests in the men’s race have Commonwealth 5,000m silver medallist Nicholas Kimeli and Cornelius Kemboi who will pave way for Faith Kipyegon and Nelly Chepchirchir to go for the medals in the women’s mile from 1pm with Reynold Cheruiyot and Kyumbe Munguti fighting for honours in the men’s mile.
The blue riband half marathon races will then follow with Olympic marathon champion and world record holder Peres Jepchirchir (1:05:16) attempting to become only the fourth woman to win a hat-trick of global half marathon titles after Briton Paul Radcliffe, Kenya-born Dutchwoman Lornah Kiplagat and Kenya’s Tecla Loroupe.
“It will not be easy to defend my title because the competition will be tough, but I will try my best… I have been focusing on the marathon more than the half marathon, but I will try my very best on Sunday,” Jepchirchir said on Friday.
Kenya’s 10,000m national champion Irene Kamais, Catherine Reline and Margaret Chelimo, fourth in the 5,000m in Budapest last month, will provide Jepchirchir’s supporting cast with Daniel Ebenyo Simiu, fresh from bagging silver in the 10,000m at last month’s World Championships in Budapest, leading the Kenyan men backed by Bernard Kibet, Samuel Nyamai Mailu and Sebastian Kimaru Sawe.
Simiu oozed confidence on Saturday, targeting to end what has been an illustrious season with another global medal.
“It’s a big honour representing Kenya in the road races… I feel happy and will do my best tomorrow,” he said at the team hotel, confident that he will replicate his stellar track performance on the roads of Riga.
“I’m good on all surfaces. I want to be the best and I want to come out as the best tomorrow (today). I want to come out with a medal.”
But he was careful not to rush into speculation about his Olympic plans for next year.
“Let’s not talk about next year. Next year will speak for itself. We are still far from next year because remember, before the Olympics there will be the World Cross Country Championships (in Belgrade) and World Indoor Championships (in Glasgow).
“I can only promise to work hard and try my best tomorrow (today).”
Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo holds the men’s half marathon world record at 57:31 from Lisbon (2021) but is not on the start list with Yoweri Museveni’s boys from Kapchorwa represented by Abel Chebet, Ali Chebures, Hoseah Kiplangat and Andrew Rotich Kwemoi.
Another person of interest in the men’s half marathon is South Africa’s ageless Stephen Mokoka, 38, the 2016 African Championships 10,000m gold medallist.
Athletics Kenya’s technical director Paul Mutwii was confident that the Kenyan team selected will deliver the goods with the federation having roped in distance running legends onto the technical bench for the Riga assignment.
They include Kenya’s first world champion in the women’s 10,000m Sally Barsosio and former world marathon record holder Patrick Makau.
World Athletics President Seb Coe believes these revamped championships will spur the growth of road running.
“It is my hope that both the elite and mass participation events will help to raise the profile of road running in the region and across the world as we continually look for new and innovative ways to expand the reach of our sport and increase participation across all corners of the globe,” he said in the official programme for this weekend’s championships.
“This inaugural edition of the Road Running Championships comes at an exciting time for our sport.
“I can’t remember the last time we witnessed such an outstanding athletics season. Indeed, the performances of our athletes at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest just last month were nothing short of remarkable – and if the recent spate of new world records is anything to go by, there is every chance the road mile world record will be set here in Riga this weekend,” Coe added.