Peres Jepchirchir, the Olympic champion, displayed the spirit of a true champion as she sprinted to victory in the women’s half marathon, leading a Kenyan podium sweep at the World Road Running Championships held in Latvia’s capital, Riga.
Jepchirchir set a new course record of 1:07:25, narrowly edging out her compatriot Margaret Chelimo, who secured the silver medal with a time of 1:07:26. Catherine Reline completed the Kenyan dominance by clinching the bronze medal, finishing in 1:07:34.
“I wanted to win three times and make history, and thank God I have made it,” said Jepchirchir. “It was my birthday this week, and I told my husband I would work extra hard to get the win.”
Jepchirchir’s outstanding performance also led Kenya to a resounding victory in the team competition, marking their first team title since 2016 when they last swept the medal positions. The combined efforts of Jepchirchir, Chelimo, and Reline resulted in a cumulative time of 3:22:25. Ethiopia secured second place with a total time of 3:27:55, while Great Britain and Northern Ireland claimed the bronze with a combined time of 3:29:15.
“I am so happy for team Kenya,” Jepchirchir expressed. “I knew we would sweep this as a team because I trust my colleagues so much.”
The race took place on a cool and sunny afternoon in Riga, where Jepchirchir once again demonstrated her patient strategy. As the Olympic marathon champion and women-only half marathon world record holder, she maintained a steady pace throughout the majority of the race, confident in her ability to outperform her competitors when it mattered most.
The initial pace was relatively slow, with a group of 22 athletes closely packed together as they reached the 5km mark. Samantha Harrison of Britain led the group with a time of 16:25. However, the pack began to thin out shortly after, with a group of eight runners passing the 10km mark in 32:19.
Jepchirchir, Chelimo Kipkemboi, and Reline Amanang’ole took turns leading the race, while the British duo of Harrison and Calli Thackery also contributed in the breezy conditions. By the third quarter of the race, Harrison and Thackery fell behind, unable to keep up with the Kenyan athletes who started to apply pressure at the front. Amanang’ole passed the 15km mark in 48:33, leaving only six athletes in contention for the podium.
The group was soon reduced to five, as Ftaw Zeray from Ethiopia dropped off the pace. Jepchirchir positioned herself at the back of the pack as they approached the 20km mark, closely observing her opponents’ moves. As they ran through the old town and along the River Daugava towards the finish line, Jepchirchir began to close the gap, with only one Ethiopian, Tsigie Gebreselama, sandwiched among the four Kenyans.
When they reached the 20km mark in 1:04:20, Jepchirchir seized the opportunity to make her move, surging to the front and assessing the impact on her rivals. Only her compatriot Irine Jepchumba Kimais fell behind at this stage. With Kipkemboi taking the lead shortly after, the Kenyan athletes quickly secured the desired positions, leaving Gebreselama behind.
Leading the final kilometer against the wind, Kipkemboi veered around the road, hoping for support from those behind. However, it became a battle for each woman individually, and Jepchirchir strategically positioned herself behind her teammate, waiting for the perfect moment to unleash her renowned burst of speed. Within the final 400 meters, she surged forward, capturing the gold medal.
“When I saw the tape, I started celebrating,” Jepchirchir shared, admitting she had trouble sleeping the night before due to race-day worries. With another global title to her name, she now has ambitious plans for the upcoming year.
“Next month, I’m going to run the New York City Marathon,” Jepchirchir revealed. “That’s my prayer; I pray to God for good health to get that chance. I will try my best.”
Silver medalist Chelimo Kipkemboi expressed her joy in running alongside Jepchirchir, saying, “It was great to run with Peres today. I am always proud to run for Kenya. I was fourth atthe World Championships on the track, so to win a medal today is very special. I’m excited to continue my progress, and next, I will compete in the Valencia Half Marathon.”
Bronze medalist Reline Amanang’ole was pleased with her performance, stating, “It was a very tough race, but I’m super excited because it was my first time running in this event.”
The World Road Running Championships in Riga showcased the exceptional talent and dominance of Kenyan athletes, with Peres Jepchirchir leading the charge and etching her name in history once again. As she sets her sights on future competitions, the world will be eagerly watching to see her continued success on the roads and tracks.