NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 8 – The Kenyan duo of Joyciline Jepkosgei and Violah Jepchumba, history’s two fastest women over 10km, will face off over the distance once again at the Birell Prague Grand Prix, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Saturday.
The last time they met, also in the Czech capital, the 23-year-old Jepkosgei produced one of the most impressive road running displays ever, breaking four world records en route to her victory at he Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon on 1 April.
Jepkosgei won that race in 1:04:52 to smash the previous world record by 14 seconds. Early on in that contest, Jepkosgei and Jepchumba scorched past the 10km marker in 30:04 and 30:05, well inside the previous world record of 30:21 that Paula Radcliffe set in 2003.
Jepkosgei has raced once on the roads since, winning the Gifu Half Marathon in 1:07:44 just 22 days later.
Jepchumba has also raced sparingly since, most recently at the Gothenburg Half Marathon in May where she finished second in 1:08:10.
She’ll however return to this race as the defending champion, having clocked a superb 20:24 course record last year –at the time the second fastest of all-time– while finishing 44 seconds clear of Jepkosgei, who was the runner-up in her international road debut over the distance.
The field also includes Fancy Chemutai who was third in that Prague half marathon speedfest clocking 1:06:58 in what was her international breakthrough, after going through 10km in 30:56. She was even faster two months later in Appingedam, where she ran a 30:24 lifetime best.
Others to watch include another Kenyan, Gladys Jerop Kimaina, who has improved to 31:15 this year, and Ethiopian Netsanet Gudeta, twice a top-six finisher at the World Half Marathon Championships and the winner at this year’s Ottawa 10km in 31:15, a lifetime best.
-Kipyatich back to defend-
The men’s race also features the return of the 2016 champion.
Abraham Kipyatich upset a solid field last year with his 27:40 victory, a performance that would end the year as the third quickest in the world in 2016. While he’s remained competitive, the 24-year-old will return looking for his first victory of year; the same was true last year.
Primary among his challengers will be compatriots Benard Kimeli and Mathew Kimeli. The former arrives as the world leader on the roads courtesy of his 27:18 lifetime best in Paderborn in mid-April which he followed up with another victory 15 days later, clocking 28:14 in Wurzburg.
Meanwhile Mathew, still just 19, has already distinguished himself over the distance on the track with a sixth place finish at the Kenyan trials for the World Championships and a 27:14.43 run in Ostrava, the fastest by a U20 athlete this year. He was fifth in this race last year in 27:53, still his fastest performance on the road.
All three will keep a watchful eye on 20-year-old Jemal Yimer Mekkonen, who was fifth in the World Championships 10,000m where he clocked 26:56.11.
How he’ll convert that form and speed from the track to the roads will be one of the key questions that Saturday’s race will answer. Notably, he was fourth at the World Cross Country Championships in March over the same distance.