RIGA, LATVIA, October 01 — The road mile enjoys popularity in the United States, but is rarely run elsewhere. So it makes sense that an American, even a relatively unheralded one, would come out on top at the inaugural World Road Running Championships. Hobbs Kessler used a perfectly timed burst of speed with about 100m from the finish to secure the day’s most unlikely victory. He also scored a World Record in this first season of World Athletics recognition of a standard for the event.
The new WA event — an expansion of the half-marathon championships that have been contested since ’92 — was held on a sunny, cool afternoon in the Latvian capital with races in the mile, 5K and traditional half-marathon.
As the mile began, Kenyans Raynold Kipkorir and Daniel Munguti had predictably moved to the front and controlled the early tempo, with Kessler — who won road miles in Boston and Michigan earlier this year — right behind as part of a giant pack. South Africa’s Ryan Mphahlele took the lead about halfway through, but he gained no separation from the field. Canadian Kieran Lumb then slid into position alongside the leaders, while Kessler drifted to the far left-hand side of the pack.
Just as the athletes were all winding up for the finishing sprint, Kessler swept by and moved to the front, ecstatically crossing the line in 3:56.13 with his arms raised. Great Britain’s Callum Elson (3:56.41) held off American Sam Prakel (3:56.43) for the silver.
“I wasn’t in the first corral, so I was mad because they didn’t even think I’m a medal contender,” Kessler said of his start placement behind bigger names. Ultimately, he was never far off the lead, strategically tucking in to buck the headwind in the second half of the race: “I felt really good with 400 to go. And once I made my move I was waiting for people to come up on me, but I was able to hold them off just long enough.”
France’s Maël Gouyette (3:56.57) was a close 4th, followed by Lumb (3:56.98). The Kenyans faded badly, with Munguti 13th in 4:00.67 and Kipkorir, who set a WJR 3:48.06 in the mile at the DL Final 2 weeks ago, came home 22nd in 4:05.91.
For the 20-year-old Kessler it was a significant realization of the promise he showed in ’21 when he turned pro out of high school after setting an AJR in the 1500 and High School…