NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 17 – Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir outsprinted her opponents to reclaim the World Half Marathon title in a new Women’s Only World Record time of 1:05:16 in Gdynia, Poland on Saturday afternoon.
During Friday’s pre-race conference, Jepchirchir had warned that the world record of 1:05:34 she set in September in Valencia was in danger of falling due to the quality of the field
And with a spirited sprint in the final 500m, the Kenyan who won the title in 2016 proved her prediction right, slashing 18 seconds off her previous mark.
Germany’s Melat Yisak Kejeta took silver silver in a women-only European record of 1:05:18 after beating Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw with a sprint, the latter taking bronze in 1:05:19.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s former world record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei finished sixth in a time of 1:05:58. She dropped out of the leading pack after taking a tumble in the final five kilometres tripping with Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh who finished a place above her.
In the team standings, Ethiopia beat Kenya to the top spot in a World Half Marathon championship record of three hours, 16 minutes and 19 seconds while Kenya clocked three hours, 18 minutes and 10 seconds.
In a race blighted by falls, where three of the leading contenders saw their chances scuppered through unfortunate incidents, the race boiled down to a clash between those able to stay on their feet through the four laps around the streets of Gdynia.
On what was a cold, breezy morning alongside the Baltic Sea, the pace was scorching from the outset.
Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei was one of the chief aggressors, leading a pack of 13 through the first 5km in 15:20. Midway through the second lap the first casualties began to show from that group and it was whittled to eight, with Turkey’s Yasemin Can another keen to push things along.
Ethiopia’s Netsanet Gudeta’s race almost came to an abrupt stop as the leaders took a 90-degree turn on to the seafront, the defending champion taking a fall and losing several seconds to the leaders.
It was a gap she would never close, the Ethiopian slipping farther behind during the third lap.
Can led a group of seven through 10km in 30:47, but on the third lap Jepchirchir made her first strong move, the women-only half marathon world record holder injecting a surge and putting many of those behind in visible distress.
At this point a trio of Ethiopians –Yeshaneh, Zeineba Yimer and Yehualaw – were coasting quietly in their slipstream along with Germany’s Kejeta, and as they turned away from the beach to head out on their final lap Yehualaw made her first move towards the front.
However, Jepkosgei soon seized the advantage again as they ran uphill, with a pack of seven reaching 15km in 46:24.
Yehualaw and Jepchirchir ran side by side, with Kejeta hanging tough in their slipstream, and as they turned for home with less than a kilometre to run the three ran side by side towards the finish.
Jepchirhir bided her time and took advantage as Yehualaw hesitated entering the finishing straight, the Kenyan 27-year-old digging in and surging clear to a memorable victory.
-Additional information courtesy of World Athletics