Athletics

Cheptegei sets new half marathon challenge

Joshua Cheptegei (Supplied)
Joshua Cheptegei (Supplied)

Cape Town - Joshua Cheptegei has turned his attention to winning his maiden title at the World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia next month after bursting through the 13-minute barrier to improve the world 5km record in Monaco last weekend.

“This is a great confidence boost in my current form and my ability on the road,” said the 23-year-old Ugandan, who will be making his debut over the half marathon distance when he lines up in the Polish city in just under six weeks.

“Coming off a very successful 2019 it has been the perfect start to his season to show that his approach is already paying off,” his manager, Jurrie van der Velden, said.

“He is very excited to see what the World Championships has in store.”

It took little time for Cheptegei to pick up in 2020 where he left off in 2019. In a largely solo performance at Sunday morning’s Monaco Run 5km, Cheptegei shattered the world record over the distance, clocking 12:51* to clip a whopping 27 seconds from the previous mark of 13:18 set by Kenyan rival Rhonex Kipruto.

Cheptegei’s command performance not only eclipsed Kipruto’s pending world record and the most recently ratified record of 13:22, set by Robert Keter in Lille on November 9, but also bettered the fastest time ever recorded for the distance, Sammy Kipketer’s 13:00 clocking in Carlsbad, USA, in 2000, well before the 5km became an official world record event in November 2017.

“I had sub-13 minutes in my mind so when my legs felt good during the race I decided to really go for it,” Cheptegei said.

“To take this many seconds off the record makes me very happy and is a great first test for me in an important season.”

Making his record-breaking intentions clear, Cheptegei blitzed through the first kilometre in 2:31, before settling into a rhythm that produced 2:35, 2:36 and 2:35 subsequent kilometres. He sealed the record with a closing 2:32 kilometre. But the end result was by no means his limit, he believes.

“He thinks he can still improve on this world record,” Van der Velden said.

Sunday’s world record run was Cheptegei’s second in just 11 weeks.

On December 1, Cheptegei smashed the world record for 10km, clocking 26:38* at the 10km Valencia Trinidad Alfonso. Kipruto broke it six weeks later on a different course in the same Spanish city - the performance nonetheless capped one of the most sensational all-around distance running seasons in recent years.

That record run came less than two months after he cruised to the world 10 000m title in Doha where he clocked 26:48.36, the fastest in the world last year. And that about seven months after he led a Ugandan 1-2 finish at the World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, clocking 31:40 over a notoriously difficult 10.24km course.

After his eagerly-anticipated appearance in Gdynia, Cheptegei will then focus his attention on the Olympic 10 000m final in Tokyo on July 31 where he’s expected to face defending champion Mo Farah, and quite likely, Kipruto, whom he had defeated in a thrilling battle in Doha last year.

JOSHUA CHEPTEGEI PERSONAL BESTS:

1 500m: 3:37.82 (2016)

3 000m: 7:33.26 (2019)

Two Miles: 8:07.54 (2019)

5 000m: 12:57.41 (2019)

10 000m: 26:48.36 (2019)

5km: 12:51 (2020) WR*

10km: 26:38 (2019)

15km: 41:05 (2018)

10km: 45:15 (2018)

5km world record progression:

12:51* — Joshua Cheptegei (UGA), Monaco, February 16, 2020

13:18* - Rhonex Kipruto (KEN), Valencia, January 12, 2020

13:22 - Robert Keter (KEN), Lille, November 9, 2019

13:29 - Edward Cheserek (KEN) Carlsbad, April 6, 2019

13:29 - Julien Wanders (SUI) Monaco, February 17, 2019

13:30 - Benard Kibet Lagat (KEN) Prague, September 8, 2018

* Pending ratification

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