World Road Running Champs begin with thousands tackling mass 5km run before Beatrice Chebet and Hagos Gebrhiwet later storm to glory on same course
If Budapest was the most brilliant world championships of 2023, Bathurst the most brutal and Innsbruck-Stubai the most picturesque, then Riga proved the most inclusive with more than 13,000 runners rubbing shoulders with around 350 elite athletes on the streets of the Latvian capital.
This began at 10am on Sunday (Oct 1) with recreational runners streamed across the Stone Bridge over the Daugava River at the start of the mass 5km race. And it continued later into the day with ordinary runners completing a one mile fun run or half-marathon with every finisher receiving a medal to say they had run in a world championships.
Taking place just 35 days after the floodlights were switched off in Budapest, there was always the danger that Riga would be little more than an afterthought at the end of a busy season. Yet anyone who has visited this charming city will know that visitors were in for a treat. Due to the fact the organising team is adept at staging the annual Rimi Riga Marathon in May as well, it meant things were destined to run smoothly.
What’s more, World Athletics’ decision to add the mile and 5km into the programme after years of staging a global half-marathon championships ensured the event was historic. The mile is a distance pretty much everyone can manage, whereas 5km is surely the most popular running distance of all right now, certainly in the UK where it has grown hand in hand with the rise of parkrun.
After fears of race-day drizzle, runners woke up to blue skies and, pardon the pun, Baltic temperatures. Temperatures soon began to rise, however, making it pleasant for all the races, although some elites complained that a wind occasionally whipped up from the Daugava.
Often the performances of the elite athletes are of little interest to recreational runners as they struggle to relate to them. Given this the speed of the 5km winners – Beatrice Chebet and Hagos Gebrhiwet – is likely to have struck a chord with the thousands who ran the same course several minutes slower.
Kenya’s Chebet, the world cross-country champion in Bathurst in February, won the women’s race in 14:35 from fellow Kenyan Lilian Rengeruk as Ejgayehu Taye of Ethiopia was third.
“I had to be confident,” said Chebet. “It was not easy, but the last time I ran the 5000m in…