By Jonathan Gault
September 21, 2020
Come next month, we will have a new king of the half marathon.
On October 17, Gdynia, Poland, will host the World Half Marathon Championships — originally scheduled for March, it will be the first global championship staged by World Athletics since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. But it will likely be without world record holder and three-time defending World Half champion Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya.
“At the moment, the World Half is not in his plans,” Kamworor’s agent Valentijn Trouw exclusively told LetsRun.com today.
In June, Kamworor underwent surgery in Kenya after fracturing his tibia and sustaining a head injury after being hit by a motorcycle during a training run. While Trouw said Kamworor is “building his training very well,” his absence means that for the first time since 2012, someone other than Kamworor will win the World Half title.
Even without Kamworor, however, the 2020 World Half is shaping up as a mouthwatering race. Uganda’s 5,000-meter world record holder Joshua Cheptegei has made no secret of his intention to make his half marathon debut in the race, just 10 days after his world record attempt in the 10,000 meters. But the announcement of the full Ugandan team on Monday came with a surprise: budding superstar Jacob Kiplimo is entered alongside Cheptegei.
Kiplimo finished second behind Cheptegei in last year’s World Cross Country Championships and has been in fine form during the 2020 track season. On September 8 in Ostrava, he outkicked Worlds silver medalist Selemon Barega to run 12:48.63 for 5,000 meters (#12 on the all-time list). And at last week’s Rome Diamond League, he outduelled Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen to win the 3,000m in 7:26.64 — #8 on the all-time list and the fastest time in the world in 13 years. Kiplimo does not have an official half marathon personal best listed on his Tilastopaja or World Athletics bios, but he has raced a half before: he clocked 61:53 (at 3,900 feet) to win MTN Uganda Half Marathon in 2019 (h/t Miguel Olmeda).
Speaking of young stars, it’s also possible that Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Saturday, could make his half marathon debut in Poland. Speaking to Norwegian newspaper VG, Ingebrigtsen’s father and coach, Gjert, hinted that the World Half is a possibility for Jakob, who has run personal bests of 3:28.68 (1500) and 7:27.05 (3000) this year.
“He is competitive,” Gjert said. “You should not overlook the fact that there may be two to three street races. We have played a bit with the idea of the half marathon WC in Poland (October 17), but have not received an invitation. It may well be that there will be some fun throughout the autumn.”
Traditional powers Kenya and Ethiopia have yet to announce their full squads, but expect whoever they send to contend for medals alongside Cheptegei and Kiplimo. Alberto Stretti reports that Kenya’s team will be led by the only man to have broken 59:00 in the half so far in 2020: 24-year-old Kibiwott Kandie. Kandie defeated Kamworor to win the Kenyan cross country title in February, then posted a dominant win at the perennially strong RAK Half just six days later, clocking 58:58. Most recently, Kandie ran 58:38 (#5 all-time) to win the Prague 21.1k on September 5.
Several countries, including the United States, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, will not be sending teams to the World Half, citing safety concerns and governmental travel recommendations.
Talk about the world half on the LRC messageboard/fan forum.