World Road Champs Men — Kessler Kicks To Gold

U.S. fans celebrated Hobbs Kessler’s mile win (see cover) but for Hagos Gebrhiwet the 5K was a victorious return from a 2-year competition absence that ended in June. (GIANCARLO COLOMBO)

RIGA, LATVIA, October 01 — The road mile enjoys popularity in the United States, but is rarely run elsewhere. So it makes sense that an American, even a relatively unheralded one, would come out on top at the inaugural World Road Running Championships. Hobbs Kessler used a perfectly timed burst of speed with about 100m from the finish to secure the day’s most unlikely victory. He also scored a World Record in this first season of World Athletics recognition of a standard for the event.

The new WA event — an expansion of the half-marathon championships that have been contested since ’92 — was held on a sunny, cool afternoon in the Latvian capital with races in the mile, 5K and traditional half-marathon.

As the mile began, Kenyans Raynold Kipkorir and Daniel Munguti had predictably moved to the front and controlled the early tempo, with Kessler — who won road miles in Boston and Michigan earlier this year — right behind as part of a giant pack. South Africa’s Ryan Mphahlele took the lead about halfway through, but he gained no separation from the field. Canadian Kieran Lumb then slid into position alongside the leaders, while Kessler drifted to the far left-hand side of the pack.

Just as the athletes were all winding up for the finishing sprint, Kessler swept by and moved to the front, ecstatically crossing the line in 3:56.13 with his arms raised. Great Britain’s Callum Elson (3:56.41) held off American Sam Prakel (3:56.43) for the silver.

“I wasn’t in the first corral, so I was mad because they didn’t even think I’m a medal contender,” Kessler said of his start placement behind bigger names. Ultimately, he was never far off the lead, strategically tucking in to buck the headwind in the second half of the race: “I felt really good with 400 to go. And once I made my move I was waiting for people to come up on me, but I was able to hold them off just long enough.”

France’s Maël Gouyette (3:56.57) was a close 4th, followed by Lumb (3:56.98). The Kenyans faded badly, with Munguti 13th in 4:00.67 and Kipkorir, who set a WJR 3:48.06 in the mile at the DL Final 2 weeks ago, came home 22nd in 4:05.91.

For the 20-year-old Kessler it was a significant realization of the promise he showed in ’21 when he turned pro out of high school after setting an AJR in the 1500 and High School Indoor Record in the mile. Since then, his results have been mixed, including a 6th-place finish at the USATF Champs in July, a disappointing showing after early season results had him high on the formchart as a contender to make the team for Budapest.

“Track did not go too well for me this year, unfortunately, so to finish here with a win is special,” he said. “The prize money will definitely come in handy, as I just bought a house 2 weeks ago.” In addition to $10,000 he takes home for the title, he also earned an extra $50,000 for the World Record.

The WR he broke had belonged to Prakel, whose modest 4:01.21 from the USATF road mile champs race in April was the top record-eligible mark in this first year that the event is enjoying official WA record status. (The fastest time on a legal course remains 3:53.3 by Edward Cheserek in Honolulu in ’19.)

For his part, Prakel was pleased with his effort. “With the two turns on the course I didn’t want to get stuck on the inside and I didn’t want to get too far back,” he said. “So my strategy was just to be towards the front and on the outside, so I didn’t have to slow down too much on the turns. And I think I played it about right. I waited a little too long in the end and Hobbs got a jump on me, but I’m happy with 3rd. I think I ran perfectly for 3rd.”

And if nothing else, Prakel’s performance justified his decision to schedule his wedding a week later than originally planned so he could be in Riga.

In the 5K, Yomif Kejelcha bucked the wind to take the lead in the second kilometer and quickly strung out the field. Fellow Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet tenaciously hung on as they passed 3K (7:58) and by 4K it was clearly going to be a battle between the teammates for the gold. Gebrhiwet moved to the front with about 400 to go, and while Kejelcha briefly fought back, he couldn’t match his countryman’s final surge.

Gebrhiwet clocked 12:59 for gold, with a disappointed Kejelcha finishing in 13:02. The ’16 bronze medalist in the 5000 was pleased to have rebounded from a disappointing 6th-place showing at the track Worlds, when he was sick. “Coming to this race, I was thinking about Budapest. I could not perform well at the World Championships in Hungary so I am very proud of what I achieved right now,” Gebrhiwet said. “One year ago, maybe I would not even think of running here but now, I am very glad I managed to come and take this victory.”

Kenya’s Nicholas Kipkorir (13:16) was a distant 3rd and Eritrea’s Dawit Seare (13:21) closed well for 4th. Americans Olin Hacker (13:36) and Ahmed Muhumed (13:42) were 14th and 22nd.

The day concluded with the half-marathon. A huge pack of about 50 hit the 5K in 14:31, but by 10K (28:35) 15 remained in contention. There was barely any attrition by 15K (42:37), and soon the real racing began.

With about 3K to go, Kenya’s Daniel Simiyu, the 10,000 silver medalist in Budapest, made what appeared to be the day’s decisive move, pulling away from the field and cruising towards apparent victory. Behind him, teammate Sabastian Sawe was battling Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer for the runner-up spot.

But Sawe mounted one final surge and caught Simiyu with less than 200m to go. Simiyu saluted his passing teammate, who clocked 59:10 for the win. Simiyu (59:14) took silver, while Samwel Nyamai (59:19) outkicked Yimer (59:22) to complete a Kenyan sweep. Yimer was 4th and France’s Jimmy Gressier (59:46) rounded out the top 5.

“After approaching him, I saw he wasn’t pushing much and I had enough strength and after that, I never stopped,” said Sawe, 7th at World XC in February and the winner of the Vienna Marathon in April. He takes home $30,000 for the win in Riga (triple what the mile and 5K winners received).

Biya Simbassa (1:01:28) led the U.S. contingent in 25th.

On the whole, track athletes seemed happy to have extended their seasons to participate in a relatively low-key affair that still had decent stakes. “That was amazing, such a fun competition,” said Australian Morgan McDonald, who finished 7th in the 5K after a frustrating year recovering from injury. “Just having a bunch of guys out there on the roads sprinting. So different from the track environment, which can be a bit stale and high pressure. This was about being more relaxed.”

The next edition of the event will be held in San Diego in ’25.



1. Hobbs Kessler (US) 3:56.13; 2. Callum Elson (GB) 3:56.41 PR; 3. Sam Prakel (US) 3:56.43; 4. Maël Gouyette (Fra) 3:56.57 PR; 5. Kieran Lumb (Can) 3:56.98; 6. Ryan Mphahlele (SA) 3:57.35 PR; 7. Giovanni Filippi (Ita) 3:57.41 PR; 8. Benoit Campion (Fra) 3:57.62 PR; 9. Yobiel Weldrufael (Eri) 3:57.94 PR; 10. Jack Anstey (Aus) 3:58.30;

11. Teddese Lemi (Eth) 3:59.40 PR; 12. Matthew Ramsden (Aus) 4:00.32 PR; 13. Daniel Munguti (Ken) 4:00.67 PR; 14. Abu Salim Mayanja (Uga) 4:00.72 PR; 15. Kenneth Kiprop (Uga) 4:00.77 PR; 16. Ryoji Tatezawa (Jpn) 4:01.26 PR; 17. Santtu Heikkinen (Fin) 4:01.35 PR; 18. Guilherme Kurtz (Bra) 4:02.75 PR; 19. Natnael Teklesenbet (Eri) 4:03.18 PR; 20. Yusuke Takahashi (Jpn) 4:03.32 PR.


1. Hagos Gebrhiwet (Eth) 12:59 PR; 2. Yomif Kejelcha (Eth) 13:02; 3. Nicholas Kipkorir (Ken) 13:16; 4. Seare Dawit (Eri) 13:21 NR; 5. Cornelius Kemboi (Ken) 13:24 PR; 6. Etienne Daguinos (Fra) 13:25 PR; 7. Morgan McDonald (Aus) 13:26 PR; 8. Awet Nftalem Kibrab (Nor) 13:28 PR; 9. Scott Beattie (GB) 13:32 PR; 10. Jonas Glans (Swe) 13:32 PR;

11. Magnus Tuv Myhre (Nor) 13:33 PR; 12. Ben Flanagan (Can) 13:34; 13. Egide Ntakarutimana (Bur) 13:35 PR; 14. Olin Hacker (US) 13:36; 15. Célestine Ndikumana (Bur) 13:36 PR; 16. Leonard Chemutai (Uga) 13:36 PR; 17. Maxime Chaymeton (SA) 13:36 PR; 18. Kanta Shimizu (Jpn) 13:37 PR; 19. Stewart McSweyn (Aus) 13:39 PR; 20. Ouassim Oumaiz (Spa) 13:39;… 22. Ahmed Muhumed (US) 13:42.


1. Sabastian Sawe (Ken) 59:10; 2. Daniel Simiyu (Ken) 59:14; 3. Samwel Nyamae (Ken) 59:19 PR; 4. Jemal Yimer (Eth) 59:22; 5. Jimmy Gressier (Fra) 59:46 PR; 6. Thabang Mosiako (SA) 59:52 PR; 7. Nibret Melak (Eth) 1:00:11; 8. Benard Kibet (Ken) 1:00:13; 9. Samsom Amare (Eri) 1:00:19; 10. Tsegaye Kidanu (Eth) 60:21;

11. Stephen Mokoka (SA) 60:29; 12. Tomoki Ota (Jpn) 60:43; 13. Elroy Gelant (SA) 60:56 PR; 14. Mohamed Reda El Aaraby (Mor) 61:03; 15. Djamal Abdi Dirieh (Dji) 61:05; 16. Ibrahim Hassan Bouh (Dji) 61:06; 17. Pietro Riva (Ita) 61:06; 18. Abel Chebet (Uga) 61:09; 19. Precious Mashele (SA) 61:13; 20. Alli Chebures (Uga) 61:22;…

25. Biya Simbassa (US) 61:28;… 33. Futsum Zienasellassie (US) 61:49;… 36. Jacob Thomson (US) 62:26 PR; 37. Therence Bizoza (Bur) 62:38;… 53. Reed Fischer (US) 63:56.

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