Abraham Cheroben turned in a sparkling performance at the 24th edition of the Medio Maraton de Valencia Trinidad Alfonso, clocking 58:48 at the IAAF Silver Label Road Race on Sunday (19).
It was a personal best for the 21-year-old Kenyan, the fastest time in the world for more than two years, just 25 seconds shy of Zersenay Tadese's 2010 world record and a Spanish all-comers best, smashing the latter mark set by another Kenyan, the late Samuel Wanjiru, who ran 59:26 in Granollers in 2008.
He is the ninth successive Kenyan winner of the race, which has acquired a deserved reputation for fast times thanks to its flat course and being only about 16 metres above sea level. His compatriot Kenneth Kipkemoi finished second in a personal best of 59:01.
Cheroben and Kipkemoi move up to equal fifth and 13th on the world all-time list.
“I’m satisfied with my win but I’m not totally happy because I was targeting a world record today. I’m convinced I can break the 58-minute barrier for the distance. Today’s temperature was a little bit hot for an endurance event like this, so conditions were good but no ideal," reflected Cheroben.
Asked about the possibility of tackling a marathon sometime soon, Cheroben was adamant: “No, not at the moment. My only goal in the near future is to break the half marathon world best."
After the leading group went through 5km in 13:57 to clearly suggest that a time well under one hour was on the cards, the pace even speeded up slightly in the second 5km and a four-man pack – an all-Kenyan quartet of Cheroben, Kipkemoi, Matthew Kisorio, and Tirus Mbishei – at the front passed 10km in a swift 27:40.
Kisorio was the man pushing the pace in the middle stages of the race but Cheroben always looked comfortable and just before the 15km checkpoint he started to pull away and take control of the race.
Mbishei was the first to fall off the back of the leading pack and by 15km, reached by Cheroben in 41:53, Kipkemoi and Kisorio were two seconds adrift and Mbishei a further two seconds back.
Cheroben then just extended his advantage all the way to the line as Kipkemoi won the battle for second place. Kisorio was third in 59:50 and Mbishei fourth a big personal best of 59:55.
Chebet course record
Two-time world cross-country champion Emily Chebet won the women’s race in a course record of 1:08:01.
Chebet went quickly to the front with just her fellow Kenyan Joyce Chepkirui for company
The pair went through 5km together in 15:37 and 10km in 31:40, with Chepkirui generally dictating proceedings. The pair had a 10-second advantage over the rest of the field.
However, Chebet made her move halfway into the the race and by 15km, passed in 48:10, she had opened up a lead of 26 seconds over Chepkirui and their compatriot Margaret Muriuki, who had moved up to get on the shoulder of the flagging Chepkirui over the previous few kilometres.
Chebet, like her counterpart Cheroben, then turned in an outstanding final six kilometres to quash any chances of her rivals coming back to her and crossed the line more than a minute in front of Muriuki, who took second in 1:09:02. Beatrice Mutai was third in 1:09:30 to make it all-Kenyan podiums in both the men's and women's races.
Chepkirui struggled home to finish fourth in 1:10:37, the African and Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion unravelling badly over the final five kilometres.
“Last year I came home as the runner up in 1:08:20. Today, I was the winner and ran almost 20 seconds faster so I have to be more than satisfied," said Chebet, who is expected to defend her world cross country title in Guiyang, China, next March.
More than 10,500 runners finished the race, which took in Valencia's historic city centre and also the port area by the Mediterranean.
Phil Minshull and Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF