Letesenbet Gidey, Rhonex Kipruto and Yalemzerf Yehualaw ahead of the 2021 Valencia Half Marathon (© Valencia Half Marathon Trinidad Alfonso EDP)
The Valencia Half Marathon Trinidad Alfonso EDP witnessed a men’s world record last year as Kibiwott Kandie ran a stunning 57:32. This time the women’s world record is the target and organisers have assembled a star-studded line-up for the World Athletics Elite Label road race on Sunday (24).
Ethiopians Letesenbet Gidey and Yalemzerf Yehualaw will clash in a long-awaited showdown. Gidey is the world 5000m and 10,000m record-holder, while Yehualaw ran 1:03:44 in August, and although that time will not be ratified as a world half marathon record the two athletes will now go head-to-head in Valencia as they target the 1:04:02 run by Ruth Chepngetich in Istanbul in April, a mark which is pending world record ratification.
The 23-year-old Gidey has competed sparingly this year but managed to set a world 10,000m record by running 29:01.03 in Hengelo before claiming bronze at the Tokyo Olympics. While the diminutive Yehualaw is an accomplished half marathon specialist, with nine outings over the last three seasons, Gidey will tackle the distance for the first time but her impressive 44:20 world best for the 15km set in Nijmegen in 2019 suggests she might become the first debutante to set a world record for the distance.
Reportedly, each of the Ethiopian aces will be joined by their respective pacemakers – Mebrahtu Kiros and Genetu Molalign – in a battle which promises to be fierce, while the organisers will provide an official pacemaker for the rest of the elite targeting a 1:05 clocking.
That second group looks set to be led by Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi, the winner in 2019 thanks to a 1:05:32 time; her compatriot Hawi Feysa, fresh from a 1:05:41 PB in Copenhagen last month; Sheila Chepkirui, runner-up last year in a career best of 1:05:39; and her fellow Kenyan Brenda Jepleting, a 1:06:52 performer.
After last year’s climax, when no fewer than four men ran inside the then world record of 58:01, one of them – Rhonex Kipruto – will be the marquee athlete this time. The Kenyan star, who clocked a 57:49 debut last year, also excelled in Valencia in January 2020 when he set the world 10km record of 26:24. He couldn’t place higher than ninth at the Tokyo Olympics over 10,000m but proved to be in top form in September when he recorded 26:43 at a 10km road race in Herzogenaurach.
While a men’s world record assault is not planned on this occasion, the pacemakers are set to go through the opening 10km in 27:30 on the hunt for a sub-58:00 finish time.
In addition to Kipruto, Sunday’s field includes another four Kenyan athletes with PBs under 59 minutes: Philemon Kiplimo, who was fifth last year in Valencia in a career best of 58:11, plus Kelvin Kiptum (58:42), Abel Kipchumba (58:48) and Felix Kipkoech (58:57).
Yet Kipruto’s toughest opposition might come from the two-time world 5000m champion Muktar Edris. The 27-year-old Ethiopian posted a promising debut over the distance last November by clocking 59:04 in New Delhi and should play a key role on Sunday, while the European challenge will be headed by Norway’s Sondre Moen and Spain’s Carlos Mayo.
Weather forecasters predict an ideal morning for running, with a 13ºC temperature and a very slight breeze. After the four records set in Valencia last year – the men’s 10km, half marathon and 10,000m, plus the women’s 5000m – the city could witness another world best on Sunday.
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics
Abdi eyes record in Rotterdam after Olympic bronze
Olympic bronze medallist Bashir Abdi plans to attack the European record while Marius Kipserem will be on the hunt for a hat-trick when the 40th NN Marathon Rotterdam, a World Athletics Elite Label road race, takes place on Sunday (24).
Kenya’s Kipserem broke the course record with 2:04:11 to win in 2019 and he leads the entries, but Belgium’s Abdi, who ran 2:04:49 in Tokyo last year, will be looking to challenge him as he attempts to beat the 2:04:16 run by Kaan Kigen Ozbilen in 2019.
“Rotterdam is the city of the marathon for me,” said Abdi. “If I have any chance of beating the European record anywhere, then it is here, but I will have to do my very best for it.”
Ethiopia’s Solomon Deksisa also has a sub-2:05 PB, having clocked 2:04:40 in Amsterdam in 2018, and they will be joined in Rotterdam by athletes including Emmanuel Saina and Gideon Kipketer of Kenya, who have respective PBs of 2:05:02 and 2:05:51, plus sub-2:07 runners Dawit Wolde, Kebede Wami Tulu and Limenih Getachew Yizengaw of Ethiopia.
Kenya’s Bornes Kitur, who ran her best of 2:21:26 in Ljubljana in 2019, and her compatriot Stella Barsosio feature in the women’s race, with Barsosio looking to go one better than her second place finish in 2019, when she ran her PB of 2:23:36.
They will line up alongside athletes including Ukraine’s Nataliya Lehonkova, Norway’s Runa Skrove Falch and Sweden’s Louise Wiker.