Lornah Kiplagat wins the inaugural World Road Running Championships (© Getty Images)
The Netherlands’ Lornah Kiplagat pushed hard by Romania’s Constantina Tomescu, the 2005 World Half Marathon champion, broke Briton Paula Radcliffe’s World record for 20km (1:03:26) by five seconds in the process of winning the inaugural IAAF World Road Running Championship title on the sun drenched but coolish (16c) streets of Hungary’s second city this morning.
Brisk opening...always up on the record
Tomescu led a group of five runners away from the field immediately the gun was fired for the start of the women’s 20km. With her came, Kiplagat, Japan’s Kayoko Fukushi, the World 15km record holder, and the Kenyans Edith Masai, the three-time World Cross Country champion, and Boston marathon winner Rita Jeptoo.
Between 3.5 and 4km, Fukushi was the first to fall back from what Kiplagat was later to describe as Tomescu's astonishingly quick opening to the race. Next to suffer was Masai who was dropped between 6 and 7km.
The reason why these world class contenders were adrift so soon became quickly obvious as the first splits were made public. At 5km (15:34) the leaders were 27 seconds inside Radcliffe’s World record pace (a time set as an intermediate split during the 2001 World Half Marathon championships), and by 10km (31:11) those riding point at that stage had increased that margin to a staggering 49 seconds advantage.
There were to be no further changes to the race order until with 37 minutes gone, one brief glance behind and Kiplagat was away with a surge of pace which only Tomescu was strong enough to follow. Jeptoo was the fallout, and the tightly packed leading trio was suddenly a pair.
Kiplagat, the European cross country champion, and silver medallist at last year’s World Half Marathon Championships, after a hamstring injury in the early part of that race in 2005 had dented her challenge, was leaving nothing to chance today.
Slipping into top gear
Five minutes later with precisely 42:44 on the clock (around the 14km mark into the race) as the two leaders headed into the most shaded part of the 5km forest lined loop course, the Dutch woman took another look behind, grabbed her sun glasses off her nose and threw them purposely into trees. There was going to be no possibility of any kind of slip-up this year!
“It is what I always like to do in a race, its like switching on another gear,” said Kiplagat.
European 15km record
But the Romanian remained a persistent challenger and as the two went through 15km (47:10) - the leaders were now ‘only’ 34 seconds ahead of World record schedule at that point - Tomescu was slightly ahead as the clock flashed 47:10. The time was a European record, improving on the 47:17 set by Norwegian legend Ingrid Kristiansen in 1987, but with both runners credited with the same time that honour will be shared.
However, there was distinctly only one women’s World record breaker today, as in the last 5km it was the 32-year-old Kiplagat, a former Osaka, Amsterdam and Rotterdam marathon winner who gradually got the better of Tomescu to seal the gold medal, the US$30,000 prize for first place, and the accolade of World record holder with a time of 1:03:21.
But the early pace had taken its toll, and the margin of improvement on Radcliffe’s record had been reduced to just 5 seconds by the close. But five seconds quicker that the World marathon record holder and World marathon champion is big in anyone’s description of running success.
Record back in Kiplagat’s hands
“I felt that we were running very fast but I did not see the time at 15km. I said to myself: if Constantina wants to run that fast I can go with her and for me it was not difficult to keep up the pace, so in the end I just stepped away. I was very confident I can win.”
“I used to have the World Record (World best at the time) over 20km but then Paula (Radcliffe) took it and I really wanted it back, so in fact I was really glad that we ran the 20km here instead of the half marathon, and I knew even before the race that I can break it.”
Tomescu, with the better sprint of the two on paper, surged again in the approximately 150m last run-in to the finish, and crossed two seconds behind for silver. In third, was Jeptoo, a very distant bronze medallist in 1:03:47.
“At 15km I was head to head with Kiplagat but then I became tired…I was very pleased with the course, it was fast but also tough,” confirmed Tomescu.
Further back again in eleventh, local girl Anikó Kálovics could be more than pleased with her 1:06:20 finish, which was a new Hungarian record. “Obviously, I am very pleased with this result. My goal was to place in the top-20, so finishing 11th is great.”
Kenya's team prize
For the Kenyans, who packed well with Jeptoo (3rd), Masai (5th) and Eunice Kepkorir (14th) there was team gold (3:15:55) and a US$15,000 prize. Ethiopia were second home (3:18:50) with Dire Tune Arissi in fourth place their best runner, with Japan, the bronze medallists (3:19:00), their trio led home by Kayoko Fukushi in 6th.
Chris Turner for the IAAF