Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, 23, broke the world record by running a sensational 65:06 at the 2017 RAK Half Marathon Friday morning (Thursday night US time) to defeat Mary Keitany as they waged an epic duel in a race that featured arguably the greatest women’s half marathon field ever assembled.
Jepchirchir, the 2016 World Half Marathon champion, ran a negative split to break Florence Kiplagat’s 65:09 world record from 2015. Each of Jepchirchir’s 5k splits in the 21.1 km/13.1 mile race were faster than the previous as she ran 15:37 for the first 5km segment, then 15:27, 15:24 and 15:10 from 15k to 20k to finally drop Keitany. At that point, Jepchirchir was chasing history.
Jepchirchir dug extremely deep for the world record. Her form was completely falling apart as she neared the finish line (she slowed the final 1.0975km, running 15:43 pace for that stretch of the race), her face sporting an intense grimace as her torso swayed from side to side. Jepchirchir managed to hang on before collapsing immediately after the finish line, where she had to be carried away from the finish area.
2015 World Cross Country and 2016 World Half Marathon silver medallist Bedan Karoki of Kenya won the men’s race in a new pb of 59:10 as 1:44 800 man Augustine Choge ran 59:26.
The race was not just historic for the time, but whom Jepchirchir beat. Mary Keitany finished as runner-up today in 65:13 (putting her third on the all-time list), and this was the first time she had lost a half marathon since 2007. Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong was fourth in 65:43, with three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba, arguably the greatest female distance runner of all time, fifth in a pb of 66:50 (previous pb 66:56), a whopping 1:45 behind Jepchirchir.
Jepchirchir took home just about $113,000 for the world record as there was essentially a $100,000 world record bonus. She got 50,000 AED ($13,612.85) for the win and 365,000 AED ($99,373.81) for the WR – a fact she was unaware of until broadcaster Rob Walker broke the news to her on air after the race.