Two years ago at the 10K Valencia Ibercaja, Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto set the current men’s world record with his impressive 26:24 performance. This year, organisers hoped to match that feat in the women’s event at the World Athletics Label Road Race by bringing together some of the most outstanding distance athletes, including Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw and Kenya’s Norah Jeruto.
Unfortunately Yehualaw, the main candidate to improve the 29:38 mark achieved by Bahrain’s Kalkidan Gezahegne in Geneva last October, will be unable to compete in Valencia on Sunday (9) after testing positive for Covid-19 just before travelling on Thursday. Gezahegne's performance is awaiting ratification as the women's world 10km record set in a mixed race, with the current ratified mark the 29:43 run by Joyciline Jepkosgei in 2017.
The 22-year-old Yehualaw holds the second-quickest ever time in the half marathon, courtesy of her 1:03:51 run in Valencia on 24 October, when she covered the opening 10km in 29:45. Her 3:01 per kilometre average pace suggested the world 10km record was well within the world half marathon bronze medallist's capabilities.
Jeruto will be in the Mediterranean city this Sunday, however, and is a classic contender in the event, having recorded times of 29:51 in January 2020 and 30:08 in October 2021. She boasts the world’s third-quickest 3000m steeplechase time in history with a stunning 8:53.65 clocking to her credit and confirmed her top shape by winning the Italica cross country meeting on 21 November against some top competition.
The European record that belongs to Great Britain’s Paula Radcliffe seems to be in jeopardy thanks to the presence of the newly-crowned European cross country champion Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal. In Dublin the 31-year-old Norwegian achieved at last the elusive gold medal she had chased for many years, having previously won one silver and four bronze medals.
Boosted by her recent success, Grovdal should improve her lifetime best of 30:32 set in 2020 to attack the European record of 30:21 set by Radcliffe in 2003, when it was a world record. Sweden’s 2014 European 5000m champion Meraf Bahta, silver medallist in Dublin, will also be looking for a fast time after setting a national 5km record of 15:04 on 31 December in Barcelona.
Grovdal and Bahta will likely be joined by Kenya’s Gladys Chepkurui, who achieved a career best of 30:34 on the Spanish soil of Laredo last year, while the British pair of Charlotte Purdue and Samantha Harrison will try to break the 32-minute barrier for the first time.
Reportedly, Grovdal plans to go through the first half of the race in a moderate 15:15, to then pick up the pace during the second and more favourable closing 5km.
Men target sub-27:00 performance
Although somewhat overshadowed by the women’s event, the men’s race is also shaping up well and is headed by the Kenyan trio of Daniel Simiu Ebenyo, Boniface Kibiwott and Jacob Krop. The former won the 2020 San Silvestre Vallecana, boasts a fine 27:12 10km lifetime best and lowered his 5000m clocking to 12:55.88 last summer, while Kibiwott timed 27:13 in Geneva for third place last October. As for Krop, he’s a talented athlete who placed sixth at the World Athletics Championships in Doha over 5000m aged 18. He set his lifetime best of 27:30 in Valencia in 2020 and showed fine fitness during his last appearance in Herzogenaurach, where he won the 5km event in a PB of 13:06.
The Ethiopian response should come from the 17-year-old Chimdesa Debele, winner of the Lille 10km last November thanks to a career best of 27:16, while Switzerland’s Julien Wanders and Spain’s Carlos Mayo will be the leading Europeans. The Swiss athlete set the current European record of 27:13 here two years ago while Mayo, a 27:25.00 performer on the track, is targeting a national record to improve the mark which currently stands at 27:48.
In addition to the elite competition, there will be a mass race with 10,000 entrants divided into five waves as a security measure. Runners from 58 different countries will be looking to improve their PBs over one of the quickest circuits worldwide.
Weather forecasters predict a sunny but windy day on Sunday, with temperatures between 12 and 14ºC by the time of the event.
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics