• Cheptegei aims his first World Half Marathon Championships title in Gdynia
The Polish city of Gydnia near Gdansk on the Baltic coast is set to host the 24th edition of the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships. World 5000m and 10000m record holder Joshua Cheptegei, Jacob Kiplimo, Peres Jepchirchir and Ababel Yeshaneh will be in the spotlight on Saturday 17 October. According to the official figures 157 men and 127 women from 62 countries will take part in the World Championships.
Cheptegei set three world records in 2020 in the 5 km on the road (12:51) at the Monaco Run, in the 5000m with 12:35.36 at the Wanda Diamond League in Monaco and in the 10000m with 26:11.00 in Valencia. The 24-year-old Ugandan runner will make his debut over the 21 km distance. He is aiming to win the third world gold medal of his career after his titles at the World Cross Country Championships in Ahrus and in the 10000m at the World Athletics Championships in Doha. In his career Cheptegei won the 10000m world silver medallist in London 2017, two gold medals in the 5000m and 10000m at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast 2018 and the 5000m Diamond League title in Zurich 2019. If Cheptegei wins next Saturday’s race, he would become the second man in history after Khalid Skah to win world titles on the track, on the road and in cross country.
Cheptegei will face his 19-year-old compatriot Jacob Kiplimo, who set two world seasonal best times in the 3000m with 7:26.64 (national record) in the Golden Gala Wanda Diamond League in Rome and in the 5000m with 12:48.63 in the Contintenal Tour gold meeting in Ostrava. Kiplimo beat Cheptegei at the Ugandan Cross Country Championships and at the Cross Internacional de Italica in Seville in 2019, but he finished second behind his compatriot in their most recent clash at the Wold Cross Country Championships later last year in Ahrus. Kiplimo won the only half marathon race of his career in 1:01:53 in Kampala. Uganda’s best individual placing was Wilson Businei’s fourth place in 2006.
Three-time world half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor will not defend his title, but Kenya will be formed by a very strong team which features Kibiwott Kandie, who clocked the 2020 world seasonal best time and the fifth best performance in history with 58:38 at the Prague Half Marathon on 5 September and won the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in 58:58 last February, 2017 world cross country silver medallist Leonard Barsoton (sixth in Ras Al Khaimah with 1:00:02 and fourth in Valencia with his 59:09 PB, Benard Ngeno (second in Houston 2019 in 59:26), Benard Kimeli (PB 59:07) and Morris Gachaga (PB 59:26).
Ethiopia, who will aim to defend the 2018 world team gold medal, is led by Guye Adola, bronze medallist at the World Half Marathon in 2014 with his PB of 59:21 and second placer behind Eliud Kipchoge in 2:03:46 in the 2017 Berlin Marathon. Adola clocked a PB of 59:06 in the 2014 New Dehli Half Marathon. He has not run since the 2019 Valencia marathon, where he clocked 2:04:42. The other Ethiopian runners in the field are Andamlak Belihu, who clocked a PB of 59:10, finished second at the African Championships in the 10000m and won two editions of the New Dehli Half Marathon, Leul Gebresilase (PBs 59:18 in the half marathon and 2:04:02 in the marathon), Birhanu Legese, who finished second in 2:02:48 in the Berlin Marathon in 2019 and won the Tokyo Marathon in 2020 with a world leading time of 2:04:15, and Amedework Walelegn (2017 world under 20 cross country silver medallist).
Barhein (world team bronze medal two years ago) will feature 2018 world half marathon silver medallist and Asian record holder Abraham Cheroben, who set his PB of 58:40 in Copenhagen in 2017, and Birhanu Balew, who holds solid PBs on the track (7:34.26 in the 3000m and 12:56.26 in the 5000m).
South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka will make his seventh appearance at these championships. He has finished in the top 10 on three previous editions and finished fifth in the marathon at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.
The best European runners in the field are Julien Wanders from Switzerland, who broke the European half marathon record with 59:13 in Ras Al Khaimah in 2019, Abraham Tadesse, a Swiss runner of Eritrean origin, who won the European half marathon gold medal in Amsterdam 2016 and set the national marathon record of 2:06:40 in Seoul 2016, Callum Hawkins from Great Britain, fourth in the marathon at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Kaan Kigen Ozbilen from Turkey, who finished second in the 2019 Valencia Marathon setting the European record with 2:04:16 and clocked a PB of 59:48 in the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon, Eyob Faniel, who broke Stefano Baldini’s Italian marathon record with 2:07:19 in Seville last February, and Sweden’s 19-year-old Emil Millan De La Oliva, who will make his global championships debut after clocking 13:29.59 in the 5000m and 28:23.21 in the 10000m (respectively the fourth and the second best performances on the European Under 20 all-time list).
World record holder Ababel Yeshaneh from Ethiopia, defending champion Netsanet Gudeta from Ethiopia, and Kenyan top runners Peres Jepchirchir, Joyciline Jepkosgei and Israel’s Lonah Salpeter are set to battle for the title in the women’s half marathon.
Since 2011 there have been separate world records in women’s road races, one for women-only races and one for mixed races.
Yeshaneh set the outright world record with 1:04:31 in Ras Al Khaimah last February. She finished ninth in the 10000m at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow and 14th at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro before focusing on road races. The Ethiopian runner finished in the top two in 10 of her past 12 half marathons and finished second in the Chicago Marathon in her PB of 2:20:51.
Jepchirchir broke the women-only world record with 1:05:34 at the Prague Half Marathon last September and won the world half marathon gold medal in Cardiff in 2016. The Kenyan runner won the Lisbon Half Marathon in 1:06:54 and the Saitama Marathon in 2:23:50 in 2019 after giving birth to her daughter Natalia at the end of 2017.
Gudeta will be aiming to win her second consecutive world half marathon title two years after setting the previous women-only world record with 66:11 in Valencia in the 2018 edition of these championships. The Ethiopian runner has not won a half marathon since 2018, but she equalled the Ethiopian record of 1:05:45 in 2019.
Joyciline Jepkosgei won the 2017 Prague Half Marathon setting the previous outright world half marathon record with 1:04:51, finished second in the 2018 World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia behind Gudeta, and triumphed at the 2019 New York marathon in 2:22:38. Jepkosgei is the fastest woman in history over 5 km, 10 km, 15 km and 20 km. Kenya is also represented by Rosemary Wanjiru and Dorcas Kimeli. Wanjiru finished fourth in the 10000m at the World Championships in Doha and clocked 1:05:34 in Ras Al Khaimah setting the fastest time in the debut over the half marathon distance in history. Wanjiru also ran 15:03.49 in the 5000m and 30:38.18 in the 10000m this year. Kimeli set her half marathon PB of 1:07:10 in Barcelona and is one of the five women to have dipped under 30 minutes in the 10 km on the road.
The Ethiopian team features two sub 1:06 performers: Zeineba Yimer (third in Ras Al Khaimah in her PB of 1:05:46 and fifth at the Valencia Marathon in 2:19:28 in her debut over the distance).
Uganda’s Juliet Chekwel is running with the goal to improve her national half marathon record of 1:09:45 after winning the Seville Marathon last February in a Ugandan record of 2:23:13.
Israel’s Lonah Salpeter Chemtai won the 10000m European gold medal in Berlin 2018, two top Half Marathon races (Roma-Ostia in 1:06:40 and Prague in 1:06:09 in 2019) and the Tokyo Marathon in her career best of 2:17:45 last March.
Barhein will fight for a medal in the team competition. The best contenders of the Asian team are Eunice Chumba (PB 1:06:11 set in Copenaghen 2017), 2019 world marathon silver medallist Rose Chelimo (PB 1:08:08) and Mimi Belete (PB 1:08:16).
Turkey is represented by Yasemin Can, European champion in the 10000m in Amsterdam 2016 and four-time European Cross Country champion. The Turkish runner recently clocked 14:40.70 in the 5000m in Ostrava.
Valeria Straneo, who won the world silver medal in Moscow 2013 and finished second at the European Championships in Zurich 2014, will be the oldest athlete in the field at these championships. Annemari Kiekara from Finland will make her come-back to the World Half Marathon Championships 22 years after her last appearance at this event.
Fifteen of the men entered have sub-60 minute PBs. The ten fastest women entered have PBs of 1:06:30 or faster.
The races will be held on a five-kilometre loop around the city. The race will start from Kosciuszki Square. The course takes in some of the main roads in the city centre with a slight uphill section along Swietojanska Street. The final stretch heads back down towards the sea. The finish line is located on the main city beach in Gydnia.