The start of the Cardiff Half Marathon (© Organisers)
Edith Chelimo ably filled the shoes of absent pre-race favourite Violah Jepchumba with a 1:05:52 UK all-comers’ record that takes her to sixth on the world all-time list on record-eligible courses at the Cardiff University/Cardiff Half Marathon on Sunday (October 1).
Meanwhile, John Lotiang made it a Kenyan double in the IAAF Silver Label race as he ran 1:00:42 to beat defending champion Shadrack Kimining by seven seconds.
The fast, mainly flat course for this 15th edition of the annual race featured just a couple of minor changes from that used for the 2016 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.
Despite the news of Jepchumba, said to have picked up a stomach problem overnight, Chelimo set off even quicker than the sub-66-minute pace that was to have been set for the absentee.
The 31-year-old, surrounded by top male runners including 2017 World Championships marathon representative Josh Griffiths, went through the first five kilometres in a remarkable 15:14 – on pace for 1:04:16 and more than half a minute inside the world best. She slowed a little to 30:56 through 10 kilometres, but at this point had a lead of 57 seconds over the second woman, half marathon debutante Dorcas Kimeli.
Chelimo went through 15 kilometres in 46:36 – also a UK all-comers’ record – and her fade continued as she passed 20 kilometres in 1:02:30. A strong finish took her to 1:05:50, a time which sliced more than three minutes from her PB of 1:08:57 from her second in Berlin last April.
It is the ninth quickest time in history and only five women have run quicker on record-eligible courses.
“I’m really surprised [with the time],” said the 31-year-old winner. “This is a miracle for me. I was thinking I could maybe do 1:07:00. Yesterday I was discussing with my manager and I was telling him maybe I can do 3:14 per kilometre (68 minutes) and he was telling maybe I could go for 67. But it was amazing to see 65.
“I always see people running 65 and I think, ‘How can I improve my training so that I can improve?’ And I see everything is possible. The more you train, the more your body is coming. I say every time, ‘Don’t give up. Just go, go, go’.”
Regarding the withdrawal of Jepchumba, Chelimo, who trains with Bahrain’s Olympic marathon silver medallist Eunice Jepkirui, added: “I was really sad and I wish her a quick recovery.”
Asked about whether the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships next spring are on her radar, she replied: “I don’t know because everyone in Kenya is like, boom, 65, 66. It depends.”
She next plans to race the Marseille-Cassis 20k in France on October 29.
Chelimo was followed next by Kimeli in 1:10:50 as Beatrice Mutai (1:10:57) made it a Kenyan one-two-three.
Behind Ethiopia’s Zineiba Yiber (1:11:31), fifth-place Jenny Nesbit was the top British finisher in 1:13:23.
As expected, the men’s race was much more open. A group of nine passed one mile in 4:43 and two miles in 9:07. The pace slowed to outside one-hour tempo as pacemaker Bernard Rotich led them through five kilometres in 14:16.
It was with 16 minutes on the clock that Lotiang, with a slight gap, spearheaded a breakaway group of three, leaving Kimining behind. Lotiang at times ushered Eritrea’s Hiskel Tewelde and Kenya’s Kipkemboi Kiprono to move up with him.
After five miles it was clear last year’s winner was on his way back towards the lead group and he had rejoined them by 10 kilometres, reached in 28:29. At this point they were on target to break the course record set last year by Kimining.
Tewelde was dropped just before nine miles and then the lead trio took 15 kilometres in 42:58. The breakaway from Lotiang, the winner of this year’s Warsaw Half Marathon, came just before 50 minutes was reached and he went on to win in 1:00:42. Kimining refused to give in and he crossed the line in 1:00:49, four seconds quicker than his winning time from last year. Kiprono was third in 1:01:10.
“Today was a very nice day for me,” said Lotiang, whose best of 1:00:16 dates to 2013. “I was not even thinking I could win the race. I’m very happy and I want to come here next year.
“My next goal is to run 59 minutes. I think I can go quicker with faster guys in the race.”
Britain’s Dewi Griffiths, whose club Swansea Harriers is based 20 miles from Cardiff, took 82 seconds from his PB set only three weeks earlier at the Great North Run as he crossed the line in fourth in 1:01:33. Former world marathon record-holder Steve Jones, who was watching from the sidelines, ran just 34 seconds quicker in his day – and he is the only Welshman to have run quicker than Griffiths, who will make his marathon debut at the end of this month.
He had passed Tewelde, who was a further 10 seconds adrift, in the closing stages. Wilfred Murgor, the only sub-60-minute runner in the line-up, faded to 1:03:42 for 11th.
More than 19,000 started the race, making it one of Britain’s biggest road races, boosted by being upgraded from an IAAF Bronze Label event from last year.
Paul Halford for the IAAF