YANGZHOU, April 24- World half marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir shattered the women’s course record at the 2016 Yangzhou Jianzhen International Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, improving it by almost a minute when winning in 1:07:21 on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Kenyan barely met any challenge during the race. After building an early lead, Jepchirchir hit the 10km mark in 31:20 and kept extending her advantage until the finish.
She trimmed 55 seconds off the former course record of 1:08:16 set by compatriot Gladys Cherono in 2014.
Jepchirchir’s winning time in Yangzhou was also ten seconds faster than the result she achieved when claiming the gold medal at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff last month and the second fastest of her csreer after her personal best of 1:06:39 in the RAK Half Marathon 10 weeks ago.
The 22-year-old Birhane Dibaba, of Ethiopia, the winner of the Tokyo Marathon last year, clocked 1:07:47 to take the second place, taking more than two minutes of her best for the distance, while Kenya’s 2012 world half marathon championships bronze medalist Pascalia Kipkoech, 27, finished third in 1:07:58, her fastest half marathon for three years.
The 25-year-old Worknesh Degefa, who set an Ethiopian national record of 1:06:14 when finishing second at the Prague Half Marathon earlier this month, competed in Yangzhou for the fourth consecutive year but the fastest woman in the field she failed to live up to expectations and could only finished fourth in 1:09:06.
It was the first time for Degefa to miss a medal in Yangzhou after she set a course record of 1:08:43 to win in 2013 and finished as the runner-up in the past two years.
-Geremew becomes first runner to retain title-
In the 11-year history of Yangzhou Jianzhen International Half Marathon, Mosinet Geremew became the first runner, man or woman, to ever manage to win a second title.
The 24-year-old Ethiopian set a Chinese all-comers’ record of 59:52 last year, the first runner under an hour on the course and although he was not as quick this year, he defended his title in a winning time of 1:00:43.
Unlike the lopsided women’s race, the man’s race was decided by a five-man battle in the last 300 metres.
Thanks to his powerful sprint over the final few hundred metres, Geremew, whose can boast of a best of 59:11, won by one second from Kenya’s Edwin Kipyego.
Tanzania’s Emmanuel Giniki took a surprising early lead, going out in front after just one kilometre.
The 27-year-old passed 5km in 13:53 with the Kenyan duo Dickson Chumba and Morris Muene Gachaga lagging 10 seconds behind, and defending champion Geremew remaining in the third group with several other runners.
Giniki kept pacing the race through the 10km mark in 28:07 and although the pace slowed slightly over the next five kilometres, beating the hour was still a possibility and the course record potentially in jeopardy as Giniki passed 15km in 42:49, followed by a four-man chasing group which included Geremew, Gachaga, Kipyego and Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia.
The chasing pack caught up with a slowing Ginki after 18 kilometres but the five runners, now more concerned with winning rather than the clock, stayed together until Geremew launched his powerful charge for the victory.
The 25-year-old Kipyego, whose best is 59:30 from when finished third in Copenhagen last year, took the second place in 1:00:44 while Houston Half Marathon record holder Lilesa (59:22) finished third in 1:00:45.
Gachaga set a personal best of 1:00:46 to finish fourth and the audacious long-time leader Ginki also ran faster than he had ever done before for the distance to finish fifth in 1:00:47.