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Fifteen men to toe the line Sunday in Valencia have run sub 60 minutes over the half-marathon distance. The top three women have run 65.
The top men
Leading the way is Kenyan Kibiwott Kandie who holds the second-fastest time in history at 57:32, which he ran in Valencia in 2020. Kandie wants to run well in preparation for his go at the Valencia Marathon on December 3. The 27-year-old had a rough go in his debut marathon in New York in 2021 clocking a pedestrian 2:13:43. With Valencia being a fast course, and Kandie’s upside, expect a potential repeat of 2020 Sunday and a sub 2:04 in December. Kandie has run the half-marathon distance sub-60 at least four times. Last year, he clocked a 58:10 performance. With Kandie, it is hit or miss, but he is seeded first for this Sunday for a good reason.
World record under threat? 👀— World Athletics (@WorldAthletics) October 7, 2022
Kibiwott Kandie 🇰🇪 is returning to the streets of Valencia on 23 October two years after producing a mind-blowing 57:32, which remains the second fastest half marathon ever 🤯 pic.twitter.com/nAlaEssrl1
The Ethiopian 26-year-old will be looking for the win in Valencia. Last year, he set the Ethiopian national record on this course at 58:32. Kandie won, Kejelcha was second. The border-sharing bitter rivals may make an exciting race of it. Kejelcha has run three sub-60s and is on fire in 2023 with a 3000m national record set back in September at the Diamond League finale, the Prefontaine Classic. He clocked a fantastic 7:23.64. Back in June, he clocked a new personal best over 5000m with his 12:41.73 performance at the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway. In March, in Lille, France, Kejelcha ran a 5K road personal best recording a 12:50. If anything, the Ethiopian displays a little more consistency than the number one seed Kandie. If he is in position in the late going, expect Kejelcha to use his 3000m speed to drop Kandie and whoever else may be there with them.
Carrying a best of 58:43 from Valencia two years ago, the 25-year-old Kenyan Mathew Kimeli is ranked number three on the main page at the Valencia Half Marathon website. Kimeli is a bit of an unknown having not done much since breaking the world U20 record in the 15K at 42:00 in 2017, then running Valencia so well four years later. He is ranked third solely on his personal best, rather than racing acumen. More interesting is Ethiopian Tadese Worku, who at age 21, could turn some heads if he hasn’t already done so.
This time last year, the then 20-year-old clocked a bit of a shocker going 58:47 for a new personal best. At age 19, he ran 26:56 on the roads in 2021. His range is strong too, having a pb over 3000m of 7:34.75 from 2021. In June this year, the national champion ran a 10,000m race in the time of 27:11.26. It appears the Tigray conflict did not interrupt his flow. If he is clear from the civil unrest and in top form expect Worku to contend for the win, right up there with Kandie.
This savvy 29-year-old vet knows how to get it done. Post-pandemic, there seems to be a real youth movement in the longer distances with athletes in their early 20s taking marathons and half-marathon events. With a 58:55 this past February, Gebriwet has been in fine form recently enough. His performance at the inaugural World Road Running Championships in Riga was impressive. He clocked a 12:59 5K performance. In that race he crushed Kejelcha to win gold. He has medalled everywhere. Gebriwet earned bronze in the 5000m at the Rio Olympic Games, medalled in China and Russia at the World Athletics Championships, and is a 10-time Diamond League winner. He is a smart race, excellent pacer and possesses a strong kick. Gebriwet has as much chance to win in Valencia as anyone.
Seeded last based on personal best, but has just as much horsepower as anyone else on the list. Berega is a highly consistent 3000m to 5000m runner competing at the top for several years. His best over the half-marathon though is listed as 1:00:39, which he ran at Newcastle upon Tyne in England this time last year. Perhaps if he had run the uber-fast Valencia last year, his pb would be more indicative of his ability. 12:43.02 and 7:26.28 are his 5000m and 3000m bests, respectively. The latter of which he ran earlier this year. The 23-year-old Ethiopian is as much of a threat for the win as all those athletes ranked higher than him.
Barega is a smart racer. Look no further than his patience pacing and surging tactics employed during the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games where at the age of 21 he took gold. He also earned silver and bronze at the Doha and Budapest World Athletics Championships, respectively.
Melat Yisak Kejeta
The 31-year-old Ethiopian now runs for Germany.
She likes the half marathon having run approximately a dozen of them in and around 70 minutes, with one outliar, the 2020 Gdynia World Athletics Championships where she ran her best of 1:05:18 to finish two seconds behind the winner Peres Jepchirchir, who went on to win Olympic gold in the marathon in Tokyo. Where this performance came from, is unknown, but if she can channel her 2020 self Kejeta will be in the mix for the win. She hasn’t done anything since and none of her other performances over any distance equal that performance.
Margaret Chelimo is one of the favourites to take the win. No question that her 1:05:26 from Barcelona last year lands her in the top-three ranking for Sunday. In March this year, she ran just as well in Lisbon clocking a 1:05:50 performance. The 30-year-old Kenyan has medalled twice at the World Championships. She did so in Doha in the 5000m and Eugene in the 10,000m. Chelimo also took silver at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 5000m. She knows how to win.
Since 2012, she has raced everything from the 800m, 4 x 1500m, 1500m, and every distance in between to the half-marathon. During 2021, 2022 and 2023 she has been globally competitive over the 3000m and up to the half-marathon. Her 5000m personal best is a terrific 14:27.49 from the 2019 Doha World Athletics Championships.
This Ethiopian like Chelimo is a menace at every distance. The 28-year-old has mixed it up since 2011 over the 3000m to the marathon on the roads and tracks. She just likes to race and contend for the win every time that she goes out. Last year, she took the gold medal during the Eugene World Athletics Championships in the marathon clocking a brilliant 2:18:11. She won silver during the Budapest World Athletics Championships this summer. It was warm and she still clocked a 2:24:34 finish time. Two years ago Gebreslase won a very competitive Berlin Marathon in 2:20:09. Just put her in a pair of the same shoes Assefa ran in and watch her go, 2:11:00 anyone?
She brings a 1:05:36 from Manama, Bahrain in 2021 to the start line.
Haneth Chepngetich is an enigma if you will. She has done little until very recently. The 25-year-old Kenyan burst onto the international scene in 2023. She ran the 50000m in 15:07.55 at Nyayo National Stadium at altitude in June. Then 10,000m in 31:57.70, again at altitude in Nairobi. And 10K on the road in September clocking a 30:21. Back in April her 1:06:42 was run in Prague.
Prior to 2023, she was a relatively slow 1500m runner. During 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021, there is almost nothing on record for her.
During the past two years, and especially 2023, she has made her statement as an up-and-comer. She is only mentioned here in the off-chance, she takes one of those unpredicted giant leaps forward for humankind (like Assefa).