- Irene Jepchumba and Charles Langat won the race
- Kenyans swept the top four places in the women’s race
- In the men’s race Kenya scooped three of the top four
Kenyan athletes dominated the Barcelona Half Marathon over the weekend, with Irene Jepchumba and Charles Langat clinching the crowns in the women and men’s races respectively.
In the women’s race, Jepchumba and Joyciline Jepkosgei both dipped under 65 minutes with two of the fastest women’s half marathon performances of all time.
Jepchumba was elated with the victory.
“When I was given the chance to compete in Barcelona I didn’t hesitate, as I knew it was a very quick circuit. For me, it’s incredible to beat my compatriot Florence Kiplagat’s course record, which has stood unbeaten for many years,” she said after the race.
The women’s event was billed as a thrilling encounter between Kenya’s former world record-holder Jepkosgei and Ethiopia’s world 1500m record-holder Genzebe Dibaba, with the common goal of breaking Florence Kiplagat’s course record of 1:05:09.
The pacemaker set a steady 3:04/km tempo to lead a quintet featuring Jepchumba and Jepkosgei together with their Kenyan compatriots Catherine Relin and Gladys Chepkurui plus Dibaba, passing 5km in 15:19.
Once the pacemaker stepped off, it was Jepchumba, a 1:06:03 specialist, who took charge of the race to leave Chepkurui and Dibaba behind by the 15km point. The trio reached that point in 45:58.
Relentless pace pays off for Jepchumba
Finally, Jepchumba’s relentless pace paid off and she dropped Jepkosgei just before the 20km point. By then, She had built a three-second margin on Jepkosgei and she extended her lead over the final kilometre to romp home in a massive career best and course record of 1:04:37.
Jepkosgei was second in 1:04:46, a PB that improves her previous best of 1:04:51 that was a world record when she achieved it in Valencia in 2017.
Relin and Chepkurui completed a Kenyan top four, clocking 1:05:39 and 1:05:46, respectively. Dibaba had to settle for fifth place, recording the same time as Chepkurui.
Meanwhile, in the men’s race, the Kenyans equally dominated.
Langat was joined by his Kenyan compatriots Solomon Kirwa Yego and Josphat Boit plus the Ethiopian pair of Legese and Gebrie Erikhun. That quartet timed 27:53 at that stage, right on schedule to break Teklu’s course record of 59:06 set last year.
Took turns on pacing duties
Once the pacemaker dropped out of the race around the 12th kilometre, the athletes at the helm took turns at pacing duty to keep the speed alive. That pace proved to be too fast for Boit and Erikhun, who began to falter some 37 minutes into the race before the lead trio went through the 15km mark in 41:51.
Once inside the closing kilometre, the 26-year-old Langat unleashed a powerful change of speed to break away from his more illustrious rival. At the tape, the Kenyan clocked a course record of 58:53, bettering his lifetime best by almost two minutes, while Legese also dipped under the 59-minute barrier for the first time thanks to a 58:59 clocking.
Yego completed the podium in 59:29 and finishing behind Boit and Erikhun was Germany’s European marathon champion Richard Ringer who ran 1:01:09 for sixth, one second ahead of Nageeye.
-Additional reporting from World Athletics