When world record-holder Joyciline Jepkosgei competes at the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon on Sunday (23), there’s a good chance that several records could fall in the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
The Kenyan recently stunned the athletics world when she set a half marathon world record (pending ratification) of 1:04:52 in Prague last month, also breaking the world records for 10km, 15km and 20km along the way.
Her first target on Sunday will be the course record of 1:08:55, set last year by Olympic marathon silver medallist Eunice Kirwa of Bahrain. She could also target the Japanese all-comers’ records of 1:06:43, set by Masako Chiba on Tokyo’s downhill course in 1997, and 1:06:44, set by Elana Mayer on Tokyo’s record-eligible course in 1999.
For Jepkosgei, who also recorded 1:06:08 at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon two months ago, all of those targets appear within reach.
Ethiopia’s Belaynesh Oljira and Kenya’s Philes Ongori look set to be her main challengers. Since setting a half marathon PB of 1:07:27 six years ago, 2013 world 10,000m bronze medallist Oljira has improved her PBs on the track and so could be in shape to challenge her lifetime best on Sunday. More recently she finished eighth at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017.
Ongori took the silver medal at the 2009 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships with a PB of 1:07:38, but her last sub-70-minute performance was back in 2013. Her most recent race was at the 2017 San Blas Half Marathon where she was fourth in 1:21:58.
Bahrain’s Mimi Belete could spring a surprise. Her half marathon career consists of one race, a victory at the 2017 Venlo Half Marathon with 1:09:15, so her potential at the distance is unknown, but her track PBs of 4:00.08 for 1500m and 8:30.00 for 3000m underlines her quality.
Japan’s Yuka Ando and Mao Kiyota, who were seventh and eighth respectively last year, will return for this year’s race. Following their strong performances last month in Nagoya, they will both represent Japan in the marathon at the IAAF World Championships London 2017. Ando, who clocked 2:21:36 in Nagoya for the fastest ever marathon debut by a Japanese runner, has a half marathon best of 1:09:51, while Kiyota, who recorded a marathon best of 2:23:47, has a half marathon best of 1:10:31.
Kenyan victory likely in men’s race
The men’s race is wide open with Bernard Kipyego, Kenneth Keter, Paul Kuira and James Rungaru likely to contend for victory on Sunday.
Kipyego, Keter and Kuira all have sub-60-minute PBs for the 13.1-mile distance. Kipyego clocked 59:10 at the 2009 Rotterdam Half Marathon, Keter ran 59:48 at the 2016 Venloop Half Marathon, and Kuira recorded 59:47 at the 2015 Marugame Half Marathon.
Kipyego has run faster than 60 minutes for the half marathon on six occasions, most recently at the 2014 RAK Half Marathon where he finished fifth in 59:47. Kipyego has also run faster than 2:09 for his three most recent marathons, including Tokyo two months ago.
Keter and Kuira have just one sub-60-minute clocking each to their credit. Kuira was second at the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon last year, while Keter was fourth.
Former champion Rungaru will try to win another title at the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon. He was only sixth last year, but he recorded a season best of 1:00:48 a month ago in Den Haag.
Other contenders are 2016 Marugame Half Marathon winner Goitom Kifle of Eritrea and Macharia Ndirangu of Kenya, who has a half marathon best of 1:00:30 and was second at the Japan Corporate Team Half Marathon Championships in 1:01:46 two months ago.
Joel Mwaura could be set to surprise the favourites. He recorded a half marathon best of 1:00:59 in Marugame two months ago, and set a 5000m best of 13:27.52 earlier in the month.
If conditions are conducive on Sunday, Bedan Karoki’s course record of 1:00:02, set in 2014, could even come under threat.
The race is also known as the Naoko Takahashi Cup, as it is held in the hometown of 2000 Olympic marathon champion Naoko Takahashi.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Bernard Kipyego (KEN) 59:10
Paul Kuira (KEN) 59:47
Kenneth Keter (KEN) 59:48
James Rungaru (KEN) 1:00:12
Goitom Kifle (ERI) 1:00:20
Macharia Ndirangu (KEN) 1:00:30
Joel Mwara (KEN) 1:00:59
Alexander Mutiso (KEN) 1:00:59
Teklemariam Medhin(ERI) 1:01:47
Paul Pollock (IRL) 1:02:10
Yuki Kawauchi (JPN) 1:02:18
Melaku Abera (ETH) 1:02:47
Yonas Mebrahtu (USA) 1:02:59
Roman Fosti (EST) 1:05:14
Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) 1:04:52
Belaynesh Oljira (ETH) 1:07:27
Philes Ongori (KEN) 1:07:38
Mimi Belete (BRN) 1:09:15
Yuka Ando (JPN) 1:09:51
Sara Hall (USA) 1:10:07
Mao Kiyota (JPN) 1:10:31
Lily Partridge (GBR) 1:10:32