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The last international meet to take place during 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic was the Pan Am Cross Country Cup held in Victoria, BC on February 29 — Leap Day! Then the proverbial excrement hit the fan. The international race schedule was decimated.

Although there have been virtual races, empty-stadium meets, home-garden one-on-one competitions, and elite only road races, a championship is what the athletics world has been waiting for. This, especially during a year of tremendous improvement in race times. There have been many new national, regional, and world record performances, most notably by the likes of Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei and Dutch athlete Sifan Hassan. The latter has chosen to end her season early. The top-ranked woman instead perhaps is Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir.

Cheptegei and the men’s field

Cheptegei has every chance to take his fourth world record this year, after having taken down Kenenisa Bekele’s 5000m and 10,000m 15 and 16 years old world records. He clocked 12:35.36 and 26:11.00, respectively. He also took down the 5K road record in February in Monaco with his 12:51 performance.

“I feel good, I feel recovered and ready for the race,” he said. “It’s going to be a fantastic event.”

Cheptegei will be making his half marathon debut in Gdynia, Poland against a field of 121 competitors. He may just run faster than Kenyan Geoffrey Kamworwor’s 58:01 world record as well as his 20K record that was run en route to the finish in 55:00.

There are three men entered who have run under the one-hour mark this year. They are Kibiwott Kandie (58:38), Bernard Ngeno (59:26), and Andamiak Belihu (59:52). Four more have run under 61:00, while five more have run under 62:00. There is a total of seven who have run under one-hour during their career.

Prize money

Prizes will be awarded to the top six individuals and the top six teams in both races. The prize money is as follows:

1st US$30,000
2nd $15,000
3rd $10,000
4th $7000
5th $5000
6th $3000

1st US$15,000
2nd $12,000
3rd $9000
4th $7500
5th $6000
6th $3000

Watch the event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1jZmqfwoRk&feature=youtu.be

Jepchirchir and the women’s field

Peres Jepchirchir has run as fast as 65:34 in Prague this year. Her personal best from 2017 is ever so slightly faster at 65:06 from the Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. The former is the women’s only world record. The women’s world record in a race that includes men is 64:31 by Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia.

Yeshaneh is in the race too. Rosemary Wanjiru of Kenya is also in the race, interestingly, she has also run 65:34, however in a mixed gender race.

Eleven women have run under 70-minutes, 10 this year. Three more under 71 and nine more under 72 in 2020.

Barely 21-years-of-age Yalemzerf Yeshualaw Ethiopia may be one to watch. She ran a debut of 66:01, last year.

Hassan, who up until this week appeared to be racing in the event decided to pull the plug on her season and will not toe-the-line. Last week she ran a new European record in the 10,000m event in the time of 29:36.67. She also set the world one-hour record this summer in a meet dedicated to the event (as id Mo Farah). She ran as far as 18K and 930m. She also owns a half-marathon best of 65:15 from two years ago — she could have been right in the mix for a new world record on Sunday.

The race is going Sunday. Find out how you can watch the event here>>