(06-Dec) -- The much-anticipated 40th edition of the Maratón Valencia Trinidad Alfonso EDP Elite Edition more than lived up to the pre-race hype, delivering super-fast times in both the marathon and accompanying half-marathon. However, the performance of the day was the sizzling world record of 57:32 by Kenya's Kibiwott Kandie in the shorter event, the first-ever sub-58-minute half-marathon ever recorded.
PHOTO: Kibiwott Kandie sets a pending World Athletics record for the half-marathon at the Valencia Half-Marathon (organizer photo)
That it was Kandie who set the record was not a surprise. The adidas-sponsored athlete had already recorded three sub-59:00 half-marathons this year, the only man in history to do that, and he was the silver medalist at the World Athletics Half-Marathon Championships in October in Gdynia, Poland. He was in the thick of today's race right from the gun.
The early pace was fast, set by Bravin Kipkogei Kiptoo, who took the field through the 5-K split in an improbable 13:37. Kiptoo, dressed in black adidas kit, led his older brother, Rhonex Kipruto, Kandie, world half-marathon champion Jacob Kiplimo, Philemon Kiplimo, Alexander Mutiso, and Kelvin Kiptum. That group held together through 10-K in a still-fast 27:24, well under world record pace.
The pacemaker Kiptoo dropped back, but not out (he finished seventh in his debut at the distance in 59:37). Kiptum was the next to fall back (he would finish sixth in 58:42). Through 15-K in 41:10, Kandie was still with Kipruto, the two Kiplimos (Jacob from Uganda and Philemon from Kenya), and Mutiso.
Soon after that, the race got interesting. Kandie put in a surge in the 18th kilometer leaving only Kipruto and Jacob Kiplimo within striking distance. Kandie looked very smooth, like he might just run away from this remaining two rivals.
But Kiplimo closed up on him past the 19-kilometer mark and was only a step or two behind. Kiplimo actually took the lead at 20-K, but Kandie quickly reacted. He regained the lead in the majestic finish area in the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, and would win by five seconds over Kiplimo.
"That is my very great achievement for making myself happy and Kenya happy," Kandie said in a brief broadcast interview. He earned EUR 100,000 for both winning the race and breaking 58 minutes.
Jacob Kiplimo clocked a Ugandan record 57:37 in second place, and Rhonex Kipruto ran a world debut record of 57:49 in third. Mutiso rounded out the top-4 in 57:49.
In the women's half-marathon there was far less drama. Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, making her debut at the distance, pulled away from the field in the second half and won by more than 20 seconds in 1:05:18. Kenya's Sheila Chepkirui was second in 1:05:39 and Ethiopia's Senbere Teferi was third in 1:05:51.
Back in fifth place, American Emily Sisson nearly broke Molly Huddle's American record, missing by just one second in 1:07:26.
"Definitely bittersweet," Sisson told Race Results Weekly via text message just after exiting drug testing in Valencia this morning. "Was disappointed to fall short of my goal but trying to keep things in perspective."
The men's and women's divisions of the marathon offered different kinds of drama. The men's contest was a classic race of attrition with four men --Evans Chebet, Lawrence Cherono and Amos Kipruto of Kenya, and Birhanu Legese of Ethiopia-- running together through 35 kilometers (1:42:16).
In the next 5 kilometers, Kipruto and Legese were dropped by Chebet's 14:24 split. Cherono, who won both the Boston and Chicago Marathons last year, stayed right on Chebet's heels, not ready to concede.
With 800 meters to go, Cherono surged. Chebet fell back a few strides, but was still in contact. When Cherono made the final left turn onto the race's carpeted finish straight, he stumbled slightly. Chebet pounced, and scooted away for the win in a course record 2:03:00, which was also the fastest time of this pandemic year. Cherono clocked 2:03:04 for second, Legese was third in 2:03:16 and Kipruto fourth in 2:03:30. In 12th place Ayad Lamdassem set a Spanish record of 2:06:35, despite being 39 years-old.
"For me I'm happy," said Chebet in a short broadcast interview. He added: "Maybe next year I come back again."
The women's race was all about reigning world half-marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir. The petite Kenyan with long braids was trailed by reigning TCS New York City Marathon champion Joyciline Jepkosgei throughout the second half (the pair were only separated by four seconds at 35-K). But from 35 to 40 kilometers, Jepchirchir ran a blistering 15:53 to put Jepkosgei away. She crossed the finish line in 2:17:16, a personal best, course record, and the #5 time in history.
"I am feeling good," Jepchirchir said in her broadcast interview. "I thank God for the energy he has given me. It's incredible."
Jepkosgei ran a personal best 2:18:40 in second place, while third place Helalia Johannes of Namibia set a world masters (40+) record of 2:19:59. American Jordan Hasay finished 27th in 2:33:51 (unofficial).
The plethora of fast times today was welcomed by many, but also a cause for skepticism by others. The new crop of 40mm thick running shoes using advanced foam compounds and carbon plates and rods have had a profound affect on times. They became fully legal for competition this year under World Athletics rules.
"At what point does someone in authority have the common sense to say, 'OK, we've messed up,'" tweeted veteran commentator Tim Hutchings. "Enough is enough."