On The Road — More Than Just Chicago

Tsehay Gemechu’s half-marathon debut was a win in the New Delhi race (on the left, Sanya Richards Ross holding the tape). (PROCAM INTERNATIONAL)

As sure as the leaves begin to fall, when the international track season comes to a close, September and October see the off-track runners get back into high gear. The biggest news since we reported on Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon WR last issue was the WMM affair in Chicago, but that’s by no means all that has been going on:

Half-Marathons

Copenhagen (September 16) saw 8 men run under an hour led by Kenyans Daniel Kipchumba (59:06) and Abram Kiptum (59:09). The next two were Ethiopians, Jemal Yimer (59:14) and the Oregon Project’s Yomif Kejelcha, winner of the last two World Indoor 3000s but here debuting in the Half at 59:17. As reported in the September issue Sifan Hassan’s 65:15 debut on the women’s side was an eye-opener…

At the Czech Republic’s Ústí Nad Labem race (September 15), Kenyans Stephen Kiprop (59:41) and Diana Kipyokei (67:17) were quick winners on a warm, humid day. Kiprop won by 44 seconds but Kipyokei had Nancy Kiprop close behind in 67:32…

In the New Delhi Half-Marathon (October 21), a women’s clash between World Record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei and track great Tirunesh Dibaba was prime on the pre-race menu. Tell that to Tsehay Gemechu. In her debut at the distance the 20-year-old Ethiopian outsprinted Jepkosgei for a 7-second win, 66:49–66:56. Dibaba never contended, although she clung to the back of the lead pack through 10K (31:42) before losing contact and finishing 6th in 68:36. Faring worse was first-time half-marathoner Senbere Teferi who got out to a big lead for a while. At 19K Teferi’s tempo collapsed to just about a walk, and she quit the race, a victim of dehydration (who happily recovered well).

In the men’s race, Andamlak Belihu bested Ethiopian compatriot Amdework Walelegn, 59:18 PR–59:22, with Kenya’s Daniel Kipchumba 3rd (59:48). American Leonard Korir placed 5th in 60:12.

Marathons

Emmanuel Saina, a 1:02:03 half-marathoner coming in, had a nice debut at the full distance in Buenos Aires (September 23). The 26-year-old Kenyan negative-split his way to a South American All-Comers Record 2:05:21, putting up halves of 62:52 and 62:29…

Another unlooked for performance came from 41-year-old Irishwoman turned Aussie Sinead Diver at the Melbourne race (October 14). Her 2:25:19 secured a win by more than 21 minutes, was a 6:18 improvement on her PR from ’17, and featured remarkably even pacing (1:12:36/1:12:43)…

There was talk before the Amsterdam Marathon (October 21) of Kenenisa Bekele targeting the course record. However, the Ethiopian great, who had DNFed 2 of his 4 starts since he ran his 2:03:03 PR in Berlin in ’16, encountered trouble again and it was Lawrence Cherono, Amsterdam’s defending champion, who broke his own course record. The Kenyan’s 2:04:06—good for =No. 12 on the all-time world list—led home the PRs of Ethiopians Mule Wasihun (2:04:37) and Solomon Deksisa (2:04:40). Bekele ran with the lead pack through the half (62:11) and took the lead at 29K after the rabbits peeled off, but 1K later the 36-year-old drifted back from the leaders. Around 41K he stopped. His agent, Jos Hermens, revealed later that Bekele arrived at the start line with an injury to his sacrum, likely incurred from a misstep on a stone in training, and shortly after he took the lead he felt his hip locking up.

Five women bettered 2:24: Ethiopians Tadelech Bekele (2:23:14), Shasho Insermu (2:23:28 PR) & Azmera Gebru (2:23:31 debut) plus Bahrain’s Desi Jisa Mokonin (2:23:39 PR) and Kenyan Linet Masai (2:23:46). Two-time Olympic 5000 champ Meseret Defar also debuted, with 2:27:25 for 8th…

In Toronto (October 21), Kenyan Benson Kipruto (2:07:24) took the men’s win from Augustino Sulle, whose 2:07:46 was a Tanzanian Record. Former NCAA star Cam Levins, inactive due to injury in ’17 and most of ’18, revived his career. Placing 4th with 2:09:25 in his marathon debut, he broke Jerome Drayton’s 43-year-old Canadian Record, collecting 54,000 Canadian dollars that included $1000 for each year Drayton’s record had survived.

USATF Championships

The USATF 20K (New Haven, Connecticut, September 3) went off in in steambath conditions on Labor Day, with the humidity, not the heat (78 degrees at the start), the harshest energy sapper. Leonard Korir, winner here two years ago, and Sara Hall resisted it best. After a large pack passed 10K with a modest 30:14 split, the men’s field whittled to 4 with a chance: Korir, Aaron Braun, Haron Lagat (a U.S. Army teammate of Korir’s) and Kiya Dandena. Korir made his decisive surge on a downhill past the 10M point and ran solo from there, posting a 4:47 split for mile 11.

“That’s what I like,” Korir told Race Results Weekly. I knew it not going to be possible to run, like, 4:30 [for the last mile]. It was not possible because of the hot. I was, like, let me use the downhill to motivate myself that I’m running quick.” Quick enough. His 60:17 (covering the second half in 29:59) put him 12 seconds ahead of Lagat, whose 60:29 led Dandena by 5 seconds.

Hall dueled with Allie Kieffer, she of the breakthrough for 5th in the New York Marathon last year from about 9 miles, opening her eventual 16-second margin in the last 800. “This was the most brutal conditions I’ve ever run in,” said Hall, a mouthful for a 35-year-old veteran who has won USATF crowns in both the mile and the marathon. Hall used 34:38/34:26 negative-splitting to cross the line in 69:04 to Kieffer’s 69:20. Emma Bates took 3rd in 69:42…

Successful defenses of their titles from ’17 were the order of the day for Shadrack Kipchirchir and Sara Hall at the USATF 10-Mile (St. Paul, Minnesota, October 7). In the men’s race, a Kenyan-born trio of training mates from the U.S. Army-American Distance Project enclave, Kipchirchir, Leonard Korir and Stanley Kebenei, all Rio Olympians, established control early. After 9M, Kebenei fell back and a thrilling fight to the end began. Korir pushed ahead, aiming for his fourth national road crown of the season, but Kipchirchir had speed in reserve and raced ahead for a 46:32–46:35 win with Kebenei 3rd in 46:39. In the ’17 race, the top 2 had finished in the same order, both with the same time, 47:33. In taking the “Equalizer bonus” by overcoming the women’s field’s 5:45 headstart on the men, Kipchirchir added another $10K to his $12,000 winner’s prize.

In a matchup of women training for fall marathons, Hall and Molly Huddle built a lead on the chasers by 10K but Emma Bates fought to join them at 8M. Bates dropped back again over the next mile, and with one more mile to run Huddle went for the kill, a would-be 15th-straight USATF Running Circuit win. But Hall wouldn’t have it. The Californian was chasing a repeat win and got it with a kick over the final quartermile. Her 52:47 finish put her a second ahead of Huddle and 4 in front of Bates.

Other Distances

A traffic routing snafu forced a late adjustment of the turnaround point for the Reebok Boston 10K For Women (October 8), shortening the course to about 9640m. Nonethless, Emily Sisson had a fine day. The ’17 World Champs 10,000 competitor found herself in a tough fight with Buze Diriba, the ’12 World Junior champion at 5000. Sisson ran away from the Ethiopian at the end, finishing in 30:39 to Diriba’s 31:12 on the truncated route…

Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter raced Dibabe Kuma all the way to the end of the Dam Tot Damloop 10M in the Netherlands (September 23), blazing through 5K segments of 15:55, 15:49, 15:44 before triumphing by a second in 50:45. “This was not easy,” she said, “but I did not want to lose.” The men, tasked with chasing after the women, fell 35 seconds short, Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei winning in 45:15. “Our first three kilometers were too slow,” he said, “so we lost that 35 seconds and we would never catch them.” □

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