RIGA, LATVIA, October 01 — After a year of perfection, Faith Kipyegon finally showed that she’s human. The Kenyan star, coming off a season that included a pair of World Championships track gold medals and a trio of World Records, was a shocking 3rd in the mile at the inaugural World Road Running Championships, which also included a 5K and half-marathon. (A version of this event has been held since 1992, but with only the half-marathon.)
Kipyegon, who had not lost a race at any distance in well over a year, made her characteristic move to the front in the early going, with Ethiopians Diribe Welteji and Freweyni Hailu on her shoulders. Shortly before halfway Kipyegon opened up a gap on teammate Nelly Chepchirchir and appeared to be on her way to victory. But Welteji, who finished 2nd to Kipyegon in the Budapest 1500, was not ready to concede and moved alongside her rival at the 1000-meter mark. The Ethiopian accelerated into the lead a little more than 100m from the tape before Kipyegon rallied for one final push.
Alas, it wasn’t enough, and Welteji took the gold in 4:20.98, which smashed the WR in the event. World Athletics only granted the road mile record status this year (and the first mark needed to be run in ’23) and the best time coming in was Nikki Hiltz’s 4:27.97 from the USATF road mile championships in April. On top of the $10,000 prize for the win, Welteji picks up a $50,000 WR bonus.
Hailu (4:23.06), who finished 7th in the 5000 in Budapest, passed a fading Kipyegon (4:24.13) for the silver, while Chepchirchir (4:31.18) was well back in 4th.
“When I approached the last stretch of the course and saw the finish line, that was the time when I decided to challenge Faith Kipyegon’s leading position,” Welteji said. “I had the feeling that [she] would be a bit tired, so I believed it was possible to beat her today.”
Kipyegon, who ran a sensational 4:07.63 track WR in Monaco in July and owns two Olympic golds and three Worlds titles in the 1500, suffered her first loss at the 1500 or mile since ’21. Clearly exhausted, she dropped to the ground after the finish to catch her breath. (She hinted that she had been sick in the week leading up to the race.) “Unfortunately I am a little bit tired today, after such a long season, but I could finish it feeling healthy,” she said, pointing out that this was her first road race. “Now, I can say I completed my season, so I can go back home to have a little bit of rest because I am tired, and I feel I need some rest now.”
Addy Wiley (4:36.03) was the top American in 9th, while Helen Schlachtenhaufen (4:40.28) came through in 17th.
Despite Kipyegon’s uncharacteristic bad day, the Kenyan’s had a good showing overall, taking the 5K and half-marathon titles (and sweeping the podium of the longer race).
The 5K got off to an honest start, but the wind made any chance of a WR impossible. American Weini Kelati was part of a group of seven that went through 3K in 8:54. She soon lost contact, however, as the pace quickened.
In the final kilometer, Ejgayehu Taye of Ethiopia — the WR holder on the roads (14:19) who took 10,000 silver in Budapest — made a bid for the front with teammate Medina Eisa, Kenyan’s Beatrice Chebet and Lilian Rengeruk, and Italy’s Nadia Battocletti on her heels.
Taye and Chebet were neck-and-neck coming down the final stretch, but Chebet broke away just as Rengeruk was coming back into the picture. Chebet continued to pull away, clocking 14:35 for the win, while Rengeruk (14:39) edged Taye (14:40).
“I had no tactics in mind because it is my first time in a road running event,” said Chebet, whose superlative season also included a world cross country title in February and her second straight track 5000 silver. “What I was sure about was that I have a very strong finish, so I knew I had to trust myself in the last few meters.” She admitted that the wind was a huge factor in the race playing out so tactically.
Taye admitted that wind hindered her. “Of course, I am glad for the bronze but on the other hand, I am very disappointed for my performance,” she said. “I started the race with the aim to win as I am the World Record holder.”
Eisa (14:41) and Battocletti (14:45) finished 4th and 5th, while Kelati (15:10) was alone in 7th and the other American, Fiona O’Keefe (15:40) took 11th.
The half-marathon started conservatively, with roughly 20 women together through 5K (16:25). The pace dropped from there and nine remained at the front at 10K (32:19). Seven were still bunched at 15K (48:33), but by the 17th kilometer the pack was down to five: 2-time champion Peres Jepchirchir, and her Kenyan teammates Catherine Relin, Margaret Kipkemboi and Irene Kimais, and Ethiopian Tsige Gebreselama. They remained together at 20K (1:04:20), setting the stage for a tight finish.
Jepchirchir, the ’21 Olympic gold medalist in the marathon, and Chelimo, bronze medalist in the Eugene Worlds 10,000 last year, pulled away down the final stretch along the Daugava River. Jepchirchir lost ground briefly, but then unleashed a spectacular sprint to take the title in 1:07:25, well off the women-only WR 1:05:16 she ran to win this title in Poland three years ago.
“With 300–400 to go, I started celebrating from the moment I could see the finish line,” said the winner, who came back from injury to finish 3rd at the London Marathon in April. “My plan now is to run the New York City Marathon, so I can defend my title.”
Chelimo (1:07:26) and Relin (1:07:34) completed the Kenyan sweep, followed by Gebreselama (1:07:50) and Kimais (1:08:02). Molly Grabill (1:09:53) was the top American, in 13th.
WORLD ROAD CHAMPS WOMEN’S RESULTS
1. Diribe Welteji (Eth) 4:20.98 PR; 2. Freweyni Hailu (Eth) 4:23.06 PR; 3. Faith Kipyegon (Ken) 4:24.13 PR; 4. Nelly Chepchirchir (Ken) 4:31.18 PR; 5. Jessica Hull (Aus) 4:32.45; 6. Marta Pérez (Spa) 4:34.12 PR; 7. Bérénice Cleyet-Merle (Fra) 4:34.41 PR; 8. Nozomi Tanaka (Jpn) 4:35.32; 9. Addy Wiley (US) 4:36.03; 10. Marissa Damink (Neth) 4:36.49 PR;
11. Charlotte Mouchet (Fra) 4:36.71 PR; 12. Glynis Sim (Can) 4:36.81 PR; 13. Weronika Lizakowska (Pol) 4:37.04 PR; 14. Sarah Billings (Aus) 4:38.97 PR; 15. Carina Viljoen (SA) 4:39.01; 16. Sarah McDonald (GB) 4:40.14; 17. Helen Schlachtenhaufen (US) 4:40.28; 18. Prisca Chesang (Uga) 4:45.42 PR; 19. María Pía Fernández (Uru) 4:45.81 PR; 20. Aleksandra Płocińska (Pol) 4:46.50 PR;… dnf—Winnie Nanyondo (Uga).
1. Beatrice Chebet (Ken) 14:35 PR; 2. Lilian Rengeruk (Ken) 14:39 PR; 3. Ejgayehu Taye (Eth) 14:40; 4. Medina Eisa (Eth) 14:41 PR; 5. Nadia Battocletti (Ita) 14:45 PR; 6. Joy Cheptoyek (Uga) 14:50 NR; 7. Weini Kelati (US) 15:10; 8. Verity Ockenden (GB) 15:18 PR; 9. Francine Niyomukunzi (Bur) 15:23 NR; 10. Klara Lukan (Slo) 15:25 PR;
11. Fiona O’Keeffe (US) 15:40; 12. Caitlin Adams (Aus) 15:41 PR; 13. Militsa Mircheva (Bul) 15:45 PR; 14. Nanami Watanabe (Jpn) 15:46 PR; 15. Tayla Kavanagh (SA) 15:50 PR; 16. Kyla Jacobs (SA) 15:51 PR; 17. Julie-Anne Staehli (Can) 15:55; 18. Juliane Hvid (Den) 15:59 PR; 19. Lauren Ryan (Aus) 15:59 PR; 20. Paulina Kaczyńska (Pol) 16:00 PR.
1. Peres Jepchirchir (Ken) 67:25; 2. Margaret Kipkemboi (Ken) 67:26; 3. Catherine Relin (Ken) 67:34; 4. Tsige Gebreselama (Eth) 67:50; 5. Irene Kimais (Ken) 68:02; 6. Bezabeh Fitaw (Eth) 68:31; 7. Calli Thackery (GB) 68:56 PR; 8. Rahma Tahiri (Mor) 69:19 PR; 9. Samantha Harrison (GB) 69:26; 10. Cacisile Sosibo (SA) 69:31 PR;
11. Sofiya Yaremchuk (Ita) 69:37; 12. Glenrose Xaba (SA) 69:47; 13. Molly Grabill (US) 69:53 PR; 14. Isobel Batt-Doyle (Aus) 70:08; 15. Cian Oldknow (SA) 70:08 PR; 16. Annet Chalangat (Uga) 7:16 PR; 17. Rigbe Habteselassie (Eri) 70:27 PR; 18. Meline Rollin (Fra) 70:35 PR; 19. Belinda Chemutai (Uga) 70:40 PR; 20. Kaoutar Farkoussi (Mor) 70:40 PR;… 29. Sarah Pagano (US) 71:37.