Road News — The Fall Season Begins To Heat Up

Ben True led a tight group across the finish in winning the USATF 20K Championships. (MIKE SCOTT)

WORLD MARATHON MAJORS have been nowhere to be seen so far in this pandemic-skewed year. That will all change with a huge rush as September segues into October with consecutive-Sunday runnings of Berlin (9/26), London (10/03) and Chicago (10/10) and then Boston the day after Chicago.

Meanwhile, the post-Tokyo road scene has shown great promise for a terrific fall campaign. Highlights (the 5th Avenue Mile has its own story):

Berlin Half-Marathon: Kipkoech & Jepkosgei

Kenya’s Felix Kipkoech won the Berlin Half-Marathon (August 22) going away with his world-leading 58:57 on a windy day. That put him far ahead of the other two who dipped under an hour, Josphat Tanui (59:40) and Philemon Kiplimo (59:54).

Joyciline Jepkosgei, prepping for the London 26-miler, broke Sifan Hassan’s course record by 29 seconds with her 65:16 winner. She had passed through 10K in 30:30 accompanied by fellow Kenyans Nancy Rotich and Valary Aiyebei, the wind at their backs. They finished 2-3 in 65:21 and 67:32.

USATF 20K Champs: True & Kemp

The New Haven Road Race (September 06) doubled as the USATF 20K Champs. Ben True won the men’s race on the kick from a close crowd, his 59:53 a tick ahead of Biya Simbassa and Nico Montanez (both 59:54) with Leonard Korir at 59:58. Simbassa had led through the final stages but True caught him just before the line. “We weren’t running all that fast,” said True. “But we picked it up. It was fun.”
Erika Kemp won the women’s title in 1:06:20, breaking away from Makenna Morley (1:06:59) in the final 2M.

USATF 10M Champs: Rojas & Kimutai

The rescheduled Cherry Blossom 10M (Washington, DC, September 12) didn’t have blossoms at this time of year, but brought something new to the women’s road scene, one Jenny Simpson. After her 10th in the Olympic Trials 1500, the ’11 World champ decided to test herself at longer distances. She almost won the USATF title over 10M, getting outkicked by Nell Rojas, 52:13–52:16.

The unsponsored Rojas made the big move with 600 left: “I made that decision ’cause I was like, ‘You know what, I can’t let Jenny have the last 50-meter sprint,’” she said. “I just can’t. She has more leg speed than me. I was like, ‘I’m fine with second but… let me just do this.’ I didn’t plan on it.”

Kenyan Edwin Kimutai won the men’s race in 45:45, but runner-up Biya Simbassa took USATF honors with his 46:18.

Women’s 5 & 10K World Records

A special adizero Road To Records festival staged at the adidas headquarters (Herzogenaurach, September 12) saw WRs for the women’s 5K and 10K fall hard.

In the 5K, Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi left her opposition behind after the first kilo and ran solo to a 14:29, an outright WR, bettering the women-only best of 14:44 set by Beatrice Chepkoech earlier this year. More significantly it also topped Sifan Hassan’s absolute WR 14:43 from ’19. She also bettered the fastest time ever, 14:32, set by Joyciline Jepkosgei before the distance became an official WR event.

“After the Olympics, I knew I was ready to go after this World Record,” said Teferi, who was 6th in the Tokyo 5000.
In the 10K, Kenyan Agnes Tirop outlegged Sheila Kiprotich 30:01–30:17 as both went under the only women-only best of 30:29, a mark that dates back to Morocco’s Asmae Leghzaoui in ’02. The absolute record is 29:43.

The 3 men’s races produced 3 yearly world leaders. Kenya’s Jacob Krop won the 5K over track world champion Muktar Edris, 13:06–13:09. In the 10K, Rhonex Kipruto’s 26:43 beat Tadese Worku’s 26:56. And the half-marathon was won by Kenyan Abel Kipchumba in 58:48.

Great North Half-Marathon: Scott & Obiri

On a new course this year that’s still point-to-point but now record-eligible (South Shields, England, September 12), Britain’s Marc Scott kicked best to top the 13.1 debut of Edward Cheserek, 61:22–61:31. In 3rd came Galen Rupp with a U.S.-leading 61:52.

Scott, now past the foot problems that slowed him in Tokyo, said, “It was really difficult — the last 3M are all pretty much uphill — and it was hard to get into a rhythm.”

Hellen Obiri won the women’s race in 67:42 over first-timer Eilish McColgan (67:48).