RIGA, LATVIA, October 01 — After a year of perfection, Faith Kipyegon finally showed that she’s human. The Kenyan star, coming off a season that included a pair of World Championships track gold medals and a trio of World Records, was a shocking 3rd in the mile at the inaugural World Road Running Championships, which also included a 5K and half-marathon. (A version of this event has been held since 1992, but with only the half-marathon.)
Kipyegon, who had not lost a race at any distance in well over a year, made her characteristic move to the front in the early going, with Ethiopians Diribe Welteji and Freweyni Hailu on her shoulders. Shortly before halfway Kipyegon opened up a gap on teammate Nelly Chepchirchir and appeared to be on her way to victory. But Welteji, who finished 2nd to Kipyegon in the Budapest 1500, was not ready to concede and moved alongside her rival at the 1000-meter mark. The Ethiopian accelerated into the lead a little more than 100m from the tape before Kipyegon rallied for one final push.
Alas, it wasn’t enough, and Welteji took the gold in 4:20.98, which smashed the WR in the event. World Athletics only granted the road mile record status this year (and the first mark needed to be run in ’23) and the best time coming in was Nikki Hiltz’s 4:27.97 from the USATF road mile championships in April. On top of the $10,000 prize for the win, Welteji picks up a $50,000 WR bonus.
Hailu (4:23.06), who finished 7th in the 5000 in Budapest, passed a fading Kipyegon (4:24.13) for the silver, while Chepchirchir (4:31.18) was well back in 4th.
“When I approached the last stretch of the course and saw the finish line, that was the time when I decided to challenge Faith Kipyegon’s leading position,” Welteji said. “I had the feeling that [she] would be a bit tired, so I believed it was possible to beat her today.”
Kipyegon, who ran a sensational 4:07.63 track WR in Monaco in July and owns two Olympic golds and three Worlds titles in the 1500, suffered her first loss at the 1500 or mile since ’21. Clearly exhausted, she dropped to the ground after the finish to catch her breath. (She hinted that she had been sick in the week leading up to the race.) “Unfortunately I am a little bit tired today, after such a long season, but I could finish it…