Abraham Kiptum wins the Valencia Half Marathon (© Organisers)
One year after his compatriot Joyciline Jepkosgei broke the women’s world record at the Medio Maratón de Valencia Trinidad Alfonso, Kenya’s Abraham Kiptum broke the men’s world record* at the IAAF Gold Label road race on Sunday (28), clocking 58:18 to take five seconds off the mark set by Eritrea's Zersenay Tadese in 2010.
At yesterday’s technical meeting it was confirmed that the men’s pacemakers would reach the 10km point in 27:50 to target a finishing time just inside 59 minutes, but there wasn’t any talk of a possible world record assault.
On a perfect day for endurance events (a slight wind and 11C), the race opened according to the plan with the main pack passing the opening five kilometres in 13:56. By 10 kilometres, the pace had dropped slightly as the 15-man lead pack went through that checkpoint in 28:02.
But shortly afterwards the long-legged Kiptum broke away from the rest of the pack with incredible ease and began to cover each kilometre in a stunning 2:44.
The 15-kilometre split of 41:40 – just seven seconds slower than Tadese’s equivalent split from his world record run – suggested that Kiptum was on course to break his PB of 59:09 set six weeks ago in Copenhagen. Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer was still just two seconds behind Kiptum, and his compatriot Abadi Hadi, the world cross-country bronze medallist, was in third, another second in arrears.
Boosted by the crowd and fully aware that he was close to world record schedule, Kiptum kept on pushing hard to open a sizeable margin over the Ethiopian pair. The Kenyan reached 20 kilometres in 55:18 to take three seconds off Tadese’s previous world best of 55:21 set on his way to his world half marathon best of 58:23 in Lisbon eight years ago.
Having covered the second 10-kilometre section in 27:16, Kiptum strode home in 58:18 to bring the world record back to his country’s possession, Samuel Wanjiru being his predecessor in 2007 (58:35). Valencia, meanwhile, is now the venue of both men’s and women’s world records.
“I can’t believe it, I’m over the moon,” said 29-year-old Kiptum. “Obviously I knew I was in good shape because I set a PB last month in Copenhagen but I was eager to run in Valencia because it’s one of the flattest circuits I’ve ever run and I was confident of improving on my best.
“I realised the race slowed down between the ninth and 10th kilometre so I decided to step up the pace and go for everything.”
Kiptum, who spends most of his time in his native Kenya, plans to run in the Abu Dhabi Marathon on 7 December. “I would like to reach the midway in 1:02:30 and finish under 2:05,” he said of his plans for that race.
Runner-up Yimer also destroyed his previous career best of 59:00 as he was timed at 58:33 to move to third on the world all-time list while 21-year-old Hadis clocked 58:44, lowering his best by almost two minutes.
In the fierce battle to be first European home, Britain’s Callum Hawkins finished in 1:01:00 for 16th with Spain’s Toni Abadía making a respectable debut over the distance in 1:01:15.
Evergreen Burka prevails over Chelimo
Held alongside the men’s event, the lead pack in the women’s race cruised through the opening five kilometres in 15:39 with the fastest entrant, Kenya’s Edith Chelimo, at the front closely followed by the Ethiopian trio of Bekelech Gudeta, Gelete Burka and Helen Bekele Tola.
Eight women compounded the leading group which also include Eritrea’s Yeshi Chekole, the Kenyan pair of Diana Chemtai and Pauline Korikwiang and United Arab Emirates’ Alia Mohamed Saeed, a late addition to the field.
The pace slowed down slightly on the tougher second five-kilometre section which was covered in 31:36 with only Tola dropping from the pack.
Over the second half of the event it became clear that the 27-year-old Saeed would play a key role as the 31:10.25 10,000m performer took charge of the race despite being her first attempt over the distance.
By 15 kilometres, reached in 47:18 after a 15:42 five-kilometre split, only four women remained with winning chances: Saeed, Korikwiang, Chelimo and Burka, who ran at the back throughout.
When Korikwiang lost ground one kilometre later, the only question mark was the podium order. Saeed’s front-running tactics seemed to pay off as Chelimo could not live with her pace and travelled three seconds behind her and Burka with one kilometre left.
With about 800 metres left, Burka – who won the world indoor 1500m title in this same city back in 2008 – used her track pedigree to unleash a change of speed, building a 15-metre advantage over Saeed and win in a PB of 1:06:11 to obliterate her previous best of 1:08:18 set here last year.
Saeed finished second in a national record of 1:06:13 while pre-race favourite Chelimo had to settle for third in 1:06:17.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
*Subject to the usual ratification procedures
1 Abraham Kiptum (KEN) 58:18
2 Jemal Yimer (ETH) 58:33
3 Abadi Hadis (ETH) 58:44
4 Amdamlak Belihu Berta (ETH) 59:19
5 Stephen Kiprop (KEN) 59:21
6 Bernard Kipkorir Ngeno (KEN) 59:22
7 El Hassan Elabassi (MAR) 59:27
8 Simon Cheprot (KEN) 59:28
9 Abel Kipchumba (KEN) 59:29
10 Josphat Boit (KEN) 59:42
1 Gelete Burka (ETH) 1:06:11
2 Alia Mohammed Saeed (UAE) 1:06:13
3 Edith Chelimo (KEN) 1:06:18
4 Pauline Korikwiang (KEN) 1:06:31
5 Diana Chemtai Kipyogei (KEN) 1:07:07
6 Bekelech Gudeta (ETH) 1:07:48
7 Yeshi Kalayu Chekole (ERI) 1:07:58
8 Helen Bekele Tola (ETH) 1:08:39
9 Risper Chebet (KEN) 1:10:02
10 Karoline Nadolska (POL) 1:10:43