Off-Track Racing Roundup For January

New 10K WR setter Rhonex Kipruto set the first of his two World Junior Records in New York 2 years ago. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

IT’S EASY TO THINK of the first month of the year as indoor-track time, but as always, there was significant action outside, both on the roads and over hill & dale, including the USATF XC Champs.

Road 10K Record For Kipruto

Rhonex Kipruto, the track 10,000 bronze medalist at the World Championships, brought the 10K road WR a lot closer to the oval best, producing a sterling 26:24 to win by 48 seconds on the streets of the Mediterranean port city of Valencia, Spain (January 12). That took down the WR of 26:38 set 6 weeks earlier in the same city—but a different course—by Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei. Second in 27:12 went to Japan-based Kenyan Benard Kimeli, with Switzerland’s Julien Wanders 3rd in 27:13, a European Record.

The 20-year-old Kipruto, notably shod in adidas—not any version of the Nike Vaporfly—left the pacemakers behind before 4K and passed the halfway mark in 13:23, then blitzed the last half in 13:01. “I am over the moon,” he said. “When I clocked [a World Junior Record] 26:46 in Prague in 2018, I set myself the target of breaking the World Record and today my dream came true.”

The women’s all-time best also got a scare, as Kenyan Sheila Kiprotich, 29, came within 3 seconds with her 29:46. Her time was originally reported as a record 29:42. Rosemary Wanjiru finished 2nd in 29:50 with Norah Tanui a step behind in 29:51. The finish doubled the list of sub-30 runners in world history.

Ethiopians Win Houston Marathons

A pair of Ethiopians, Kelkile Gezahegn and Askale Merachi, may have won at the Houston Marathon (January 19), but for American fans, more significant was that on the last day in the qualifying window for the OT marathon, 12 American men and 17 women bettered the B standard. All told, including the accompanying half marathon, 85 Americans beat the Trials standards.

Gezahegn won the $47,500 first prize by more than 2:00 with his 2:08:36. Merachi made even more—$65,000—with her 2:23:29 PR. Craig Hunt (2:17:18) and Adriana Nelson-Pirtea (2:33:18) each finished 8th in their respective fields to lead U.S. finishers.

Ethiopians Again In Dubai

It’s not often that a marathon ends in a sprint but that’s exactly what happened on the streets of Dubai (January 24). Ethiopia’s Olika Adugna—a first-time marathoner running in a pair of borrowed Vaporflys, having forgot his racing shoes on the plane—won in 2:06:15. Kenya’s Erick Kiptanui was just behind in 2:06:17 as 9 more finished in the next 17 seconds. The race featured the fastest times ever for places 10-13. “I always believed I could win,” said Adugna.
Last year’s Boston women’s winner, Worknesh Degefa, led from the start to win at 2:19:38 and win, with Gutei Shone 2nd in a PR 2:20:11.

50K Walk Olympic Trials

With a new name at the front of the pack, the 50K race walk Olympic Trials (Santee, California, January 25) fell well short of hitting the Olympic standard of 3:50:00. Andreas Gustafsson, who lost two years of his career to a positive test for EPO and switched nationality from Sweden in the interim, competed in his first U.S. championship as a citizen, capturing the title in 4:12:11.

Nick Christie set the pace for the first 30K before Gustafsson took over as the temperatures rose to 70° Fahrenheit (21 C) by the end of the race on the 1.25M loop course.
Defending champ Matthew Forgues finished 2nd in 4:14:42 as Christie, feeling ill, faded to 3rd in 4:27:28. It appears likely that no American will compete in the event in the Olympics this year, as the 38-year-old winner has a best of 3:54:08 set in ’11. Only once has an American walked faster than 3:50: Curt Clausen’s American Record of 3:48:04 in ’99.

Robyn Stevens won the women’s race in 4:37:31 (the No. 6 U.S. performance ever, with Erin Taylor-Talcott 2nd (4:47:00) and AR holder Katie Burnett 3rd (4:53:26). ◻︎