WTW: 30 Years Ago Belayneh Densamo Ran the First Sub 2:07 Marathon, Erick Kiptanui and Joan Melly Are Half Marathon Stars

The Week That Was In Running, April 2 – April 8, 2018

By LetsRun.com
April 10, 2018

Past editions of The Week That Was can be found here. Questions, comments, or a tip? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us or post on our forum.

We do not talk about the high school action at Arcadia below, but if you missed it, Cruz Culpepper, the high school sophomore son of American Olympians Shayne and Alan Culpepper, ran a 56.8 final lap to win the mile in 4:13.14. You can watch the race here. Interview with Culpepper here.

With Better Pacing, The Half Marathon World Record Might Have Fallen Last Week

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With huge time bonuses on the line, the 20th Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon once again produced some great results last week. The biggest came in the women’s race where Joan Chelimo Melly ran 65:04 — the fourth fastest time in history — to win both the race and €31,000 (€6,000 for the win & €25,000 for the time).

Had she paced things better, she might have very well broken the 64:51 world record. 64:51 averages out to 15:22 per 5k, but Melly went out crazy fast — 14:51 for the first 5k and 30:14 for the first 10k. Melly did so because Caroline Chepkoech Kipkirui, who beat her at the RAK Half (Kipkurui was 3rd there, Melly 4th), went out that fast.

If you haven’t heard of Joan Melly before, that’s ok. She was the definition of a mediocre pro until breaking out in crazy fashion last year at the age of 26. Up until last year, the now 27-year-old had pbs of just 32:20 (road 2013) and 71:52 (2014). Last year, she lowered her PBs to 31:24 for 10k in Boston (she won both the B.A.A. 10K and half marathon last year) and 66:25 in Copenhagen (which is 31:28 pace per 10k).

Now she’s splitting 30:14 during a half marathon. And people wonder why we think Gwen Jorgensen’s odds of Olympic marathon gold are closer to zero percent than 1 percent.

In the men’s race at Prague, 22-year-old Benard Kimeli, who ran a 27:10 10k on the roads in Prague last fall, dipped under an hour for the first time and won €21,000 in 59:47.

The Most Unexpected Performance of The Week / Meet 2018’s Breakout Performer of the Year Erick Kiptanui

Melly burst onto the women’s scene from obscurity last year and is now one of the world’s best. On the men’s side, there is somebody from Kenya who has truly come from nowhere this year.

Meet Erick Kiptanui.

Last week at the Berlin Half, the 28-year-old went out and ran his first 5k in 13:32. Yes, 13:32 — that’s 57:07 half marathon pace. He hit 10k in 27:32 and ended up tying for the world leader at 58:42 — meaning he’s now tied for the 5th fastest man in history.

Where did he come from, you say? Well Tilastopaja.eu only lists results for him starting in 2016 when he was a 1500 runner (3:37.73 pb at altitude in Nairobi for third at Kenyan champs — not the Kenyan Olympic Trials — as well as a seventh-place finish at the African champs that year). Early last year, he was still trying to make it in the 1500 (3:38.4 sb, didn’t get out of his heat at the Kenyan champs) before turning to longer distances late in the year. He’s taken to the longer distances like a fish to water as he won the San Silverstre 10km in Madrid on December 31 in 27:34 and then moved up to the half this year, winning Lisbon in windy conditions in 60:04 last month in his debut before his crazy fast run last weekend.

In the women’s race in Berlin, Ethiopia’s Melat Yisak Kejeta won in 1:09:04 as Switzerland’s Martina Strähl set a new Swiss record of 1:09:29 in second.

The Berlin race might have been in the news for other reasons last week had German police not arrested six people out of fears they were going to carry out a terror attack.

The Third Time Most Certainly Was The Charm For Betsy Saina

Betsy Saina certainly didn’t dip her toes into the marathon waters cautiously.

In her marathon debut last year in Tokyo, Saina who was then training under Jerry Schumacher, went out at 2:21 flat pace and blew up and dropped out before 40k. In New York last fall, now running under the tutelage of Patrick Sang, she once again ran with the leaders, hanging with Shalane Flanagan for 20 miles before fading and dropping out after mile 23.

Well she finally got things right in marathon #3 last week in Paris, which she won by three seconds over Ruth Chepngetich in 2:22:56.

The clock above shows 2:06 but that’s because there was a battle of sexes race that ended up being timed very well. The women started 16:26 before the men and the difference in time ended up being 16:31 as men’s winner Paul Lonyangata (2:06:25) caught Saina late and beat her by five seconds. See it for yourself.

Paris organizers chose 16:26 as the difference as that was the difference between the fastest 2017 season’s best by the fastest entrant in the Paris men’s field and the fastest 2017 season’s best by the fastest entrant in the Paris women’s field.

More: MB: Betsy Saina Holds On For Narrow 4-Second Win In 2:22:55, Paula Lonyangata Defends In 2:06:25

Screenshot 2018-04-10 at 15.32.0930 Years Ago, History Was Made in Rotterdam

On April 17, 1988, Ethiopia’s Belayneh Densamo ran 2:06:50 to win the Rotterdam Marathon. 2:06:50 may not sound like much in the year 2018 — 21 men have already run faster this year, and seven did it just last week alone — but it certainly was historic in 1988 as it was history’s first sub-2:07 marathon. And Densamo’s world record had amazing staying power — it lasted longer than any world record in the history of the marathon (save for during World War II era) as it lived on for 10+ years, until September 20, 1998.

With the 30th anniversary of Densamo’s race coming up, Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad tracked down Densamo (with our help), who is now living in Boston, and published a lengthy feature on the four-time Rotterdam winner on Sunday, the morning of the 2018 Rotterdam Marathon. We highly recommended you read the piece using Google Translate or Bing Translator, once you get past the cookies page.

Densamo never got a real shot at Olympic glory as Ethiopia boycotted the 1988 Olympics and then in 1992 his training was severely hindered after a bomb went off under his house and he had to flee.


In Rotterdam this year, four men broke 2:06, led by 33-year-old debutant Kenneth Kipkemoi, who won in 2:05:44 as Visiline Jepkesho won the women’s race in 2:23:47. Kikpemoi, who was 7th at the World Champs in the 10,000 in 2013, has shorter pbs of 13:03, 26:52 and 59:01.

More: MB: Kenneth Kipkemoi Comes From Behind To Win Rotterdam Marathon In 2:05:44 In His Debut *Video Of End Of Men’s Race

The 2018 Commonwealth Games Have Started

The track action at the Commonwealth Games got underway on Sunday on the Gold Coast in Australia and the scene looks magnificent.

Embed from Getty Images

If the time zone change (14 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Time) wasn’t so awful for US TV viewing, we’d suggest they host the World Champs there sometime in the future.

Anyways, some of the distance races are really loaded (men’s 1500, for example, has the top two from Worlds last year in Elijah Manangoi and Timothy Cheruiyot) and some not so much. On Sunday, the men’s 5000 featured a few studs in it, including 2017 World Championship 10,000 silver medallist Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda and 2016 Olympic 4th placer Mo Ahmed of Canada. Cheptegei got the win in 13:50.83 to Ahmed’s 13:52.78 thanks to a 3:58.0 final 1600.

Whenever we see a sub-4:00 final 1600 in a 5000, we can’t help but be impressed although we rationally try to remind ourselves it happens all the time. It’s happened at the NCAA level and happened in WAY faster races than 13:50.

Cheptegei’s win reminded us of this thread from 2014: MB: Fastest 5000 with a sub-4:00 split?

In that thread, we learned that when Haile Gebrselassie ran his 12:39.36 in Helsinki in 1998, his final 1600 was 3:59.36.

More: MB: Joshua Cheptegei Runs 3:58 Final 1,600 To Beat Mo Ahmed For 5,000 Gold
*MB: Commonwealth Games Discussion Thread

Attention New York City Marathon Elite Athlete Coordinator David Monti, This Is For You

22-year-old Ethiopian Rahma Tusa has never run an Abbott World Marathon Major but that may soon change. Last week, she won her third straight Rome Marathon title in 2:23:46, winning by three full minutes, and said she now wants to run and win in the Big Apple.

“I came to Rome with the goal to win for the third time and I was confident before the race,” Tusa said after the race, according to the IAAF. “It was probably my easiest win in Rome, although my preparation did not go according to plans. I never feared when [Sharon] Cherop launched her attack. Next autumn I would like to run in New York and equal my friend Firehiwot Dado, who won there in 2011 after finishing first in Rome.”

Tusa does know her running history. Like Tusa, Dado won Rome in 2009, 2010, and 2011 and then she turned her attention to New York — her first major — which she won in 2:23:15.

More: Rome: Ethiopia’s Rahma Tusa Wins Third-Straight Title In 2:23:46, Announces She Wants To Replicate Firehiwot Dado’s Feat And Win NY This Fall Kenya’s Cosmas Birech won the men’s race in a PR of 2:08:03.

Quotes of the week (that weren’t quote of the day)

#1 Fred Kerley nails it

“The high moment for me was when I was adopted by my auntie as a toddler. At the time my mom and dad were in some trouble and at one stage it looked like my four other siblings and I were going to be split up. But my auntie, Virginia, took us on, even though she already had kids of her own and she took care of four or five other kids. Growing up we were 13 kids living in the same house.

“My auntie was a huge influence on my life and continually pushed us to be the best that I could. She motivated all of us to complete a college degree and taught us never to be discouraged. She was always such a caring person. She sacrificed so much and sometimes even went without food to make sure we always ate.

“Her decision to adopt my siblings and me was the most important moment of my life and without her I wouldn’t be where I am today. Even today I speak with her every day.”

-400m star Fred Kerley talking to the IAAF about his aunt.

More: Fred Kerley Talks About Being Adopted By His Aunt And Growing Up In A House With 13 Kids Living In It

#2 Tom Walsh on what makes him so good

“I like to prove people wrong. I was told by one coach when I was 18 I was never going to throw far because I wasn’t strong or big enough. I always want to prove people wrong. A lot of time people put up barriers because we think we can’t, but that gives ourselves an easy option out.”

Tom Walsh, shot put star, talking to the IAAF about what makes him so good.


Recommended Reads

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