Nine things for 2019: on the road (Getty Images) © Copyright
Series

Nine things for 2019: on the roads

Over the first nine days of 2019, we are taking a look at nine things we’re really looking forward to as we enter another IAAF World Athletics Championships year.

We started with a look at returning stars and then some exciting rising stars. The series then continued by examining some of the world records which may finally fall in 2019 and then moved on to key head-to-heads expected to highlight the year ahead. We then took a look at the technology innovations being put to use in 2019 and yesterday we previewed some of what's in store for athletes and fans at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Aarhus 2019 in March.

Today, we continue with a look at...

Expected action on the roads

Assault on the men's 10km world record

Leonard Patrick Komon set the men's 10km world record of 26:44 on 26 September 2010 and for most of those ensuing eight-plus years, his stunning performance in Utrecht has proved untouchable. Indeed, prior to last year, the closest anyone's came has been 26 seconds. That changed in 2018 when two men would emerge as serious threats to the Kenyan's venerable mark. The bad news for Komon? Both are teenagers.

 

Rhonex Kipruto after winning the Birell Prague Grand Prix (Organisers)Rhonex Kipruto after winning the Birell Prague Grand Prix (Organisers) © Copyright

 

First up was 18-year-old Rhonex Kipruto, whose 27:08 run in New York City's Central Park last April was the fastest performance over the distance since Komon's world record. He followed up in July by taking the world U20 title on the track over 10,000m, and then returned to the roads in Prague in September, the setting where he produced his shocking break-out performance the year before, clocking 27:13. Once again, he confirmed his status as one of the planet's most promising distance runners after a dominating 26:46 victory, the second fastest performance of all-time.

Not to be outdone was Jacob Kiplimo, the world U20 cross country champion, who closed out the year in style with a stunning run of his own. The 18-year-old Ugandan clocked 26:41 at the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid, the fastest 10km ever run. Madrid's is a downhill course so his performance can't count as a world record, but it's notable nonetheless as an illustration of what Kiplimo is capable of.

 

More unprecedented depth in women's half marathon

In 2018, Netsanet Gudeta capped the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships with a dominating 1:06:11 performance, a world record for a women-only race. That was in late March; just six weeks earlier, Kenyan Fancy Chemutai clocked 1:04:52 in Ras Al Khaimah, just one second shy of the world record set by Joycilene Jepkosgei only four months earlier.

 

Netsanet Gudeta Kebede en route to the world half marathon title in Valencia (Jiro Mochizuki for the IAAF)Netsanet Gudeta Kebede en route to the world half marathon title in Valencia (Jiro Mochizuki for the IAAF) © Copyright

 

That only begins to illustrate the unprecedented depth over the distance at the moment. Four of the seven fastest performances ever recorded came in 2018, a year that witnessed 20 women produce 27 sub-1:07:00 performances. By comparison, in 2017, 13 women broke 1:07 16 times; the year before nine did so on 10 occasions; and in 2015, the barrier was broken just five times by four women.

Where will this continue to lead? Most probably to more assaults on Jepkosgei's 1:04:51 world record.

 

Radcliffe's 2:15:25 approaching its sweet 16

The picture is much different in the women's marathon where Paula Radcliffe's legendary 2:15:25 world record is fast approaching its 16th birthday. Nobody has come within a minute-and-a-half since, with Mary Keitany's 2:17:01 women's-only race world record on that same London course in 2017 the closest.

 

Brigid Kosgei winning the Chicago Marathon (AFP/Getty Images)Brigid Kosgei winning the Chicago Marathon (AFP/Getty Images) © Copyright

 

But depth has improved markedly here as well, suggesting an assault could be in the works. Membership in the sub-2:19 club doubled to 10 in 2018, with Ethiopian Ruti Aga and Kenyans Brigid Kosgei and Ruth Chepng'etich all gaining entry before their 25th birthdays and with their peak years arguably still ahead of them. Roza Dereje, the Dubai winner last January in 2:19:17 isn't too far behind that trio, and she won't be 22 until 6 May.

 

Kipchoge's weight of expectations

For many, Eliud Kipchoge's stunning 2:01:39 world record at the Berlin Marathon was the finest performance of 2018. Perhaps even of the young millennium. It was a stunning display that shattered the previous record by a massive one minute and 18 seconds, an achievement that until that cool European autumn morning was considered unfathomable.

Yet even before Kipchoge fully caught his breath and began sipping his celebratory post-race brew, the questions and expectations began: could the Kenyan superstar go faster? If so, how much faster? And could he give the two-hour barrier another go?

 

Eliud Kipchoge celebrates after his world record run in Berlin (Bongarts/Getty Images)Eliud Kipchoge celebrates after his world record run in Berlin (Bongarts/Getty Images) © Copyright

 

Considering what the 34-year-old Kenyan has already endured and achieved, heaping those weighty expectations on his slight shoulders isn't remotely fair. But then again, just a few short months after illustrating to the world that limits in human endurance are by nature very temporary, he's clearly on top of his game.

His next marathon appearance hasn't yet been announced. When it is, we can expect attention that will be unparalleled in modern marathoning.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF