OLYMPIC CHAMPION JEPCHIRCHIR HOPES FOR THIRD WORLD HALF-MARATHON TITLE IN RIGA
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved – Used with permission.
RIGA (30-Sep) — Paula Radcliffe has done it, and so has Tegla Loroupe and Lornah Kiplagat. Can reigning Olympic Marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir join three of history’s greatest distance runners as a three-time winner of the World Athletics Road Running Championships in the half-marathon*? That is certainly her intention here on Sunday.
“I know it’s not easy and I know the competition is high,” the petite Kenyan told reporters in a press conference here yesterday. She continued: “I can say I will try my best on Sunday.”
Jepchirchir, 30, is a two-time gold medalist at these championships and also the defending champion. She first won in Cardiff, Wales, in pouring rain in 2016, clocking 1:07:31. She came back in Gdynia, Poland, in 2020 –during the height of the pandemic before any of the vaccines were available– in 1:05:16. The Gdynia performance set the stage for her dominating win at the Tokyo Olympic Marathon (relocated to Sapporo) where she beat former world record holder and Kenyan teammate Brigid Kosgei by 16 seconds.
Jepchirchir knows Loroupe, personally, the first African woman to win a big city marathon who twice set the marathon world record.
“Tegla Loroupe inspired me so much,” Jepchirchir said, explaining that she had spoken to the Kenyan icon in advance of these championships. She refused to say what advice she may have received. “That’s my secret,” she said, prompting laughs from the gallery.
While not prized as highly as an Olympic gold medal or a world title on the track, winning a half-marathon world championships is still a formidable achievement for a distance runner. It’s one of the few half-marathons where athletes prepare for it as an important goal, instead of as a preparation event for an upcoming marathon. The depth of competition is significant. Although the start list has not been finalized, about 70 women from over 30 countries will start here on Sunday.
“World Half was really important to me,” explained Paula Radcliffe in a text message to Race Results Weekly. “First one in Veracruz (Mexico) 2000 was my first senior title and off the back of Olympic 4th (place) disappointment over 10,000m in Sydney. It was the catalyst for me to move to the roads and the marathon. I really loved the road and found the correlation from cross…