Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir, 23, broke the world record by running a sensational 65:06 at the 2017 RAK Half Marathon Friday morning to defeat Mary Keitany as they waged an epic duel in a race that featured arguably the greatest women’s half marathon field ever assembled.
Jepchirchir, the 2016 World Half Marathon champion, ran a negative split to break Florence Kiplagat’s 65:09 world record from 2015. Each of Jepchirchir’s 5k splits in the 21.1 km/13.1 mile race were faster than the previous as she ran 15:37 for the first 5km segment, then 15:27, 15:24 and 15:10 from 15k to 20k to finally drop Keitany. At that point, Jepchirchir was chasing history.
Jepchirchir dug extremely deep for the world record. Her form was completely falling apart as she neared the finish line (she slowed the final 1.0975km, running 15:43 pace for that stretch of the race), her face sporting an intense grimace as her torso swayed from side to side. Jepchirchir managed to hang on before collapsing immediately after the finish line, where she had to be carried away from the finish area.
Karoki takes men's title
2015 World Cross Country and 2016 World Half Marathon silver medallist Bedan Karoki of Kenya won the men’s race in a new pb of 59:10 as 1:44 800 man Augustine Choge ran 59:26.
The race was not just historic for the time, but whom Jepchirchir beat. Mary Keitany finished as runner-up today in 65:13 (putting her third on the all-time list), and this was the first time she had lost a half marathon since 2007. Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong was fourth in 65:43, with three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba, arguably the greatest female distance runner of all time, fifth in a pb of 66:50 (previous pb 66:56), a whopping 1:45 behind Jepchirchir.
Jepchirchir took home just about $113,000 for the world record as there was essentially a $100,000 world record bonus. She got $13,612.85 for the win and $99,373.81 for the WR – a fact she was unaware of until broadcaster Rob Walker broke the news to her on air after the race.
“I was not thinking that I can run world record but it’s God’s plan,” Jepchirchir told Walker. “I’m so happy. I’m not even believing myself that I ran a world record.”
Jepchirchir said that her future plans are up in the air.
“My plans now, maybe I’m going to go home, find my manager, he will tell me what to follow. I can’t choose for myself, he’s the one choosing for me.”
However, she did hint that those plans may involve a marathon debut.
“Now I’ve started preparation for [the] marathon,” Jepchirchir said.
Jepchirchir had battled pneumonia in the fall, and said she was sick again earlier this week. But any doubts about her fitness were quickly put to rest as she, Keitany, a male rabbit and Joyciline Jepkosgei, who entered with a HM best of 69:07 and only started racing competitively in 2015, dropped everyone else just after five miles. For a while, Dibaba, Sumgong and 2015 World marathon silver medallist hung a few seconds behind in a second lead pack, but the top three were too good and stretched their lead after passing 10k in 31:05.
After 15k, Jepchirchir pulled up alongside the rabbit and launched an attack that dropped Jepkosgei and left Keitany struggling to hold on. Though Keitany would hang a few steps behind Jepchirchir through 17k, the pace would eventually prove too hot for her as Jepchirchir split a phenomenal 30:33 from 10k to 20k. She was steadily gaining on world record pace, and at 19k was projected to run 65:05, four seconds under the old mark.
Jepchirchir, who ran directly behind the male pacer during much of the final stage of the race, slowed dramatically over the final kilometer, saying that she was having trouble breathing from 800 meters to the finish line, but she had banked enough time by that point and after collapsing at the finish line seemed full of energy at the awards ceremony half an hour later.
Keitany was close to the old record as well, clocking a remarkable 65:13 to set a 37-second PR at age 35, while Jepkosgei provided the biggest shock of all, taking third in 66:08, putting her #7 all-time. Hellah Kiprop, 6th, and Veronicah Nyaruai, 8th, ensured that Kenya occupied six of the top 10 positions. A former Kenyan, Rose Chelimo was 7th for adopted nation Bahrain.
In the men’s race, Karoki made it through 15k in 42:05 (59:11 pace) alongside Olympic 10k fourth placer Yigrem Demelash of Ethiopia and Choge, who earned World Indoor bronze over 3,000 meters last year. Karoki continued to push and opened up a 10-meter gap, but he continued to check on his rivals over his shoulders, suggesting that he did not expect his move to be a winning one.
He was correct, and within a few minutes both men had closed the gap, with Choge actually pulling ahead. The pace remained fair but not brutal from 15k to 20k (14:05) for Karoki, and the three men remained close until about two kilometers remained, when Karoki launched another attack. This time it proved decisive and he coasted home in 59:10, though he, like Jepchirchir fell to the ground just after finishing. Demelash, who was only fifth at the Houston Half Marathon last month in 61:59, ran a big personal best of 59:19 for second, while Choge’s 59:26 was a 35-second PR. - Letsrun.com
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