Peres Jepchirchir en route to her women-only race half marathon world record in Prague (© Organisers)
Peres Jepchirchir smashed the women-only race world record in the half marathon in Prague on Saturday (5).
The 26-year-old Kenyan clocked 1:05:34* at the Prague 21.1KM, shattering the previous record of 1:06:11 set by Netsanet Gudeta of Ethiopia at the World Half Marathon Championships in 2018.
The small field of nine - two of them pacesetters - set out at 6:20, ensuring ideal early morning conditions over the 16.5-lap course in Prague's Letna Park. Pacers Brenda Jepleting and Lilian Jepkorir Chebii went out strong, covering the opening five kilometres in about 15:20, with Jepchirchir running close.
Impatient, Jepchirchir broke away from field just 20 minutes into the race, forging on alone at a ravaging pace, at one point knocking off successive 1280-metre laps in 3:51 before reaching 10 kilometres in 30:32.
Her pace slowed over the waning laps, most covered in just over four minutes, but she still finished well under the previous mark.
"I was thinking to run maybe 1:04:50, but I'm so happy," said Jepchirchir, who raced to the world half marathon title in 2016.
"The last five kilometres I was really tired," she said, but added that she did plan to run much of the race alone. "My plan was to run good, because I was well prepared."
This was Jepchirchir's second world record over the distance. She clocked 1:05:06 in a mixed gender race in Ras Al Khaimah in 2017, a record which stood for just under two months.
With her pacing duties over early, Jepleting went on to finish second in 1:07:07. Dorcas Kimeli was third in 1:07:14. Kimeli is expected to race next at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships Gdynia 2020.
Kandie sizzles 58:38
The men's race kicked off at 08:00, handing that field much hotter conditions to contend with. Similarly to the women’s race, it was largely solo affair with Kibiwott Kandie breaking away to go it alone after 10 kilometres.
"It's difficult to run alone," he later said, but was rewarded for his efforts with a 58:38 run to become the fifth fastest man over the distance with the sixth fastest performance of all-time.
Kandie ran well early in the year, winning the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in late February with a world-leading 58:58, just six days after his triump at the fiercely competitive Kenyan cross-country championships. But then the Coronavirus pandemic forced a halt to that momentum.
"My wish is to run again when this pandemic is over," he said. "It will be a pleasure to continue competing."
In early March Kandie was also named to the Kenyan team for the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships.
Philemon Kiplimo Kimaiyo was second in 59:56 with Benson Kipruto third in 1:00:06.
* pending the usual ratification procedures