When the gun sounds for the lads’s race on the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships Gdynia 2020 on Saturday (17), all eyes shall be on an athlete who has by no means beforehand raced the 21.1km distance.
Regardless of his half marathon inexperience, Joshua Cheptegei will fairly rightly command the highlight given the yr he has had. The Ugandan has set world data in all three of his races in 2020, beginning together with his 12:51 clocking for 5km on the roads in Monaco in February and adopted six months later by his 12:35.36 5000m run, additionally in Monaco. Extra just lately, he took a five-second chunk off the 10,000m world report in Valencia on 7 October together with his gorgeous 26:11.00 efficiency.
His current performances point out world report potential at longer distances – certainly, he additionally holds the world greatest for 15km – however whether or not that can materialise in his first try on the half marathon is one other matter solely. Extra to the purpose, for the primary time this yr Cheptegei probably gained’t be centered on breaking data in Gdynia; as an alternative, his principal objective will merely be to succeed in the end line first.
Sadly for his rivals, the formidable Cheptegei is simply as adept at successful main titles as he’s at breaking data.
Ever since he pale within the closing levels of the senior males’s race on the 2017 World Cross Nation Championships on residence soil in Kampala, Cheptegei has managed to show his fortunes round. He took world 10,000m silver in London later that yr, adopted it with double Commonwealth gold in 2018 after which bagged two world crowns in 2019, successful the world cross-country title on a difficult course in Aarhus after which following it with 10,000m gold on the World Championships in Doha.
If Cheptegei is victorious on Saturday, he’ll grow to be simply the second man within the fashionable period to win world titles on the monitor, highway and cross-country, becoming a member of Khalid Skah. By the way, Skah – the winner in 1994 – can also be the final man to win the World Half on his debut on the distance.
One among Cheptegei’s strongest challengers might properly be his youngest team-mate, Jacob Kiplimo.
The 19-year-old has additionally been in sensational type this yr, clocking a world-leading Ugandan report of seven:26.64 for 3000m in Rome and setting a 5000m PB of 12:48.63 in Ostrava. His final conflict with Cheptegei was on the 2019 World Cross Nation Championships, the place he shared the lead for a lot of the best way earlier than ending second behind his compatriot.
Earlier than that, nonetheless, he had comfortably overwhelmed Cheptegei on the Ugandan Cross Nation Championships and the Cross Internacional de Italica in Seville earlier that yr. Kiplimo additionally has the slight benefit of getting beforehand contested a half marathon; he ran 1:01:53 at altitude in Kampala on the finish of final yr, successful by greater than a minute.
Up to now, Uganda has gained only one medal on the World Half Marathon Championships – bronze within the males’s workforce occasion in 2004 – whereas the nation’s greatest particular person putting was Wilson Busienei’s fourth-place end in 2006.
Their medal haul appears to be like set to extend this weekend, not solely within the particular person race however within the workforce contest too as their line-up consists of 2009 world U20 cross-country bronze medallist Moses Kibet, 1:00:00 performer Stephen Kissa, and 20-year-old rising expertise Victor Kiplangat.
Since 2006, all however one of many 9 males’s titles have been gained by both Zersenay Tadese or Geoffrey Kamworor. Neither man shall be in Gdynia, that means for the primary time since 2010 a brand new identify will characteristic on the highest step of the rostrum.
However regardless of the absence of Kamworor, who was concerned in a automotive accident earlier this yr, the Kenyan workforce continues to be sturdy and they are going to be eager to win their first senior males’s world workforce title since 2016, having been overwhelmed on the 2018 World Half and the latest editions of the World Cross.
World chief Kibiwott Kandie heads to Gdynia off the again of 4 high-quality victories this yr. He began his season by successful the Kenyan Defence Forces Cross Nation Championships and the Kenyan Cross Nation Championships. Simply six days after successful his first nationwide title, he went on to win the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in February in a world-leading PB of 58:58.
Kandie didn’t race once more till September, however he confirmed no lack of type on the Prague 21.1K, successful with one other world-leading PB of 58:38 – a mark that places him fifth on the world all-time listing and simply 37 seconds shy of Kamworor’s world report.
Benard Kimeli and Benard Ngeno, each of whom have an identical PBs of 59:07, be a part of Kandie in making their world championships debut. Ngeno, a half marathon specialist, has completed on the rostrum in his previous 9 races over the space and has a season’s better of 59:26.
Leonard Barsoton, the 2017 world cross-country silver medallist, provides additional energy to the Kenyan workforce. A 59:09 performer at his greatest, Barsoton’s quickest clocking this yr is 1:00:02.
Morris Munene Gachaga, one other skilled half marathon runner, completes the Kenyan workforce. He hasn’t raced this yr, however has a 59:22 PB from final yr.
Ethiopia’s Guye Adola has a fame for producing sudden performances. He was a relative unknown forward of the 2014 World Half Marathon Championships, however he chopped greater than two minutes from his PB in Copenhagen to take bronze in 59:21. Later that yr, he beat Kamworor – the reigning world half marathon and cross nation champion at the moment – to win the Delhi Half Marathon in a PB of 59:06.
After low-key seasons in 2015 and 2016, Adola re-emerged on the 2017 Berlin Marathon, the place he pushed Eliud Kipchoge up till the ultimate few kilometres, in the end ending simply 14 seconds behind the Kenyan nice in 2:03:46.
Adola hasn’t raced internationally since final December’s Valencia Marathon, the place he ran 2:04:42, however he can by no means be discounted.
African 10,000m silver medallist and two-time Delhi Half Marathon winner Andamlak Belihu additionally options on the Ethiopian workforce. The 21-year-old has a PB of 59:10 and is a flexible runner, having completed fifth over 10,000m ultimately yr’s World Championships and eighth on the World Cross in Aarhus.
Like Belihu, Birhanu Legese can also be a two-time winner of the Delhi Half Marathon. He has centered on the marathon in recent times, clocking a PB of two:02:48 in Berlin final yr and successful this yr’s Tokyo Marathon in a world-leading 2:04:15.
Leul Gebresilase, who has PBs of 59:18 and a couple of:04:02 for the half and full marathon distances, completed 10th on the final World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia and shall be eager to enhance on that this weekend.
Amedework Walelegn, the 2017 world U20 cross-country silver medallist, and Hailemaryam Kiros, winner of Ethiopia’s hotly-contested 15km trial race for Gdynia, full the Ethiopian line-up.
South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka shall be making his seventh look on the World Half – a tally bettered by simply two different males. He has completed within the high 10 on three earlier events and shall be buoyed by his fifth-place end within the marathon ultimately yr’s World Championships in Doha.
Different contenders embrace European record-holder Julien Wanders and his Swiss team-mate Tadesse Abraham, winner of the 2016 European half marathon title. Britain’s Callum Hawkins, who completed fourth within the marathon ultimately yr’s World Championships, is all the time aggressive in championship races, whereas Morocco’s African Video games silver medallist Mohamed Reda El Aaraby might additionally characteristic among the many leaders.
Eritrea – winners of workforce medals on the previous 10 editions, together with gold in 2014 – hasn’t entered a workforce for Gdynia. Japan and USA, who’ve despatched groups to all 23 earlier editions, additionally gained’t be represented this weekend.
And whereas Sweden isn’t anticipated to contend for workforce honours in Gdynia, their squad consists of the oldest and youngest individuals in the complete males’s discipline. 43-year-old Adhanom Abraha shall be contesting his third World Half however his first for Sweden (his two earlier appearances got here when he ran for Eritrea), whereas 19-year-old Emil Millan de la Oliva shall be making his world championships debut, having impressed on the monitor this yr with instances of 13:29.59 for 5000m and 23:23.21 for 10,000m, placing him fourth and second respectively on the European U20 all-time lists.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics