Peres Jepchirchir Sets Women’s-Only World Record of 65:16 To Win 2020 World Half Marathon Championships

Peres Jepchirchir Back on Top, How Much Did the Falls Matter, and Who Is Melat Kejeta? 4 Thoughts on the Women’s Race at the 2020 World Half

October 17, 2020

Peres Jepchirchir is on top of the world.


Running against perhaps the greatest women’s half marathon field ever assembled, Jepchirchir became just the fourth woman to win multiple times at the World Athletics World Half Marathon Championships, outsprinting surprising German Melat Kejeta and Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw to win the 2020 edition in Gdynia, Poland, in 65:16. The time was a world record for a women’s-only race — the second time Jepchirchir has broken that record in as many months (she ran 65:34 in Prague on September 5). Jepchirchir also won the World Half in Cardiff in 2016.

Jepchirchir was one of four women entered to have broken the world record (women’s-only or overall) in the last four years, and, crucially, she was the only one to stay on her feet for the duration of the race. 2018 champion Netsanet Gudeta of Ethiopia fell while rounding a corner just before 10k and was never able to regain contact with the lead group. Then, roughly 17k into the race overall world record holder Ababel Yeshaneh and 2018 silver medalist Joyciline Jepkosgei tangled while running in the lead group. Both women went down, and by the time they regained their footing, the three medalists Jepchirchir, Kejeta, and Yehualaw had broken away and would not be caught.

LRC analysis of the race below.

Top 10 Results *Full Results Here
1 Peres JEPCHIRCHIR KEN 1:05:16 WRwo
2 Melat Yisak KEJETA GER 1:05:18 NR
3 Yalemzerf YEHUALAW ETH 1:05:19 PB
4 Zeineba YIMER ETH 1:05:39 PB
5 Ababel YESHANEH ETH 1:05:41
6 Joyciline JEPKOSGEI KEN 1:05:58 SB
7 Yasemin CAN TUR 1:06:20 NR
8 Netsanet GUDETA ETH 1:06:46 SB
9 Brillian Jepkorir KIPKOECH KEN 1:06:56 PB
10 Rosemary WANJIRU KEN 1:07:10

Quick Take: Peres Jepchirchir back on top of the world

Four years ago, Jepchirchir was the best half marathoner in the world, winning the World Half title in 2016 and adding the world record to her resume at RAK in 2017. She became pregnant soon thereafter, however, and missed the rest of 2017 and almost all of 2018 recovering. In 2019, she showed promise by running 66:54 in Lisbon in October, and this fall proved she is back to her very best, setting two women’s-only world records and taking down a loaded field today in Gdynia.

For further proof of Jepkosgei’s greatness, take a look at the women to have won multiple World Half Marathon titles. It’s studly group:

Tegla Loroupe, Kenya (’97, ’98, ’99)
Paula Radcliffe, Great Britain (’00, ’01, ’03)
Lornah Kiplagat, Netherlands (’06, ’07, ’08)
Peres Jepchirchir, Kenya (’16, ’20)

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Peres Jepchirchir © Dan Vernon for World Athletics

At only 27, we sure hope to see her in Tokyo in 2021 but she only has limited marathon experience. In her only serious attempt at the event, she won in Saitama last December in 2:23:50.The results database tilastopaja does also list two 2:40+ marathons for her in Kenya (it’s also worth noting it shows zero track races for her).

Quick Take: How would this race have been different without the falls?

As great as Peres Jepchirchir was today, this is the question that has to be asked. Gudeta, the defending champion, went down just before 10k and was never able to regain contact with the lead group. And Yeshaneh’s fall around 17k — which also brought down Jepkosgei — served as the key move that enabled the eventual medalists to break away. 

Though Jepkosgei was still with the lead pack, she was grimacing and appeared to be in the hurt box before she went down so her fall may not have impacted the eventual medallists. But Yeshaneh set the world record eight months ago, looked comfortable, and was leading the race with less than 5k to go when she fell. It’s a shame we’ll never know what would have happened had she stayed on her feet.

There was almost a third fall as Yehualaw lost her balance in the final sprint, catching her foot in one of the temporary boards put down to create the finishing straightaway on the beach although at that point it was clear that Jepchirchir was going to be the winner.

Here is a slow-mo close-up of the Yeshaneh’s fall. Yeshane is the first woman to fall and Jepkosgei is the 2nd.

Here is the fall near 17k

Quick Take: Who is Melat Kejeta?

Jepchirchir’s ability was well-known coming in, and Yehualaw ran 66:01 in New Delhi last year and won the Ethiopian trials. It wasn’t much of a surprise to see them among the medals today. But we doubt anyone would have pegged Kejeta, the 28-year-old German, on the podium.

Prior to today, Kejeta, who was born in Ethiopia but switched her allegiance to Germany last year, had never run faster than 15:48 on the roads. For today’s race, she averaged 15:28 pace.

That’s a little misleading, as her 15:48 pb came from her first 5k of the Berlin Half in 2018. But Kejeta’s pbs at other distances gave no suggestion of what was to come in Gdynia. Her half marathon pb was just 68:41 (she ran 68:56 earlier this year at RAK) and her marathon best is 2:23:57, which she ran to finish 6th in Berlin last year.

She did look good in her tuneup race for the World Half, clocking 69:04 to win the Frankfurt Half on September 13, but she didn’t face much competition there (she won by almost three minutes). There was simply no way to predict this kind of breakthrough.

Quick Take: This was an incredibly quick race

Combine fantastic conditions for running (46 degrees, overcast, 8 mph wind), the latest shoe technology, and Joyciline Jepkosgei pushing the pace up front and the result was a historically fast half marathon.

A record six women broke 66:00 (previous record: four) and nine broke 67:00 (previous record: eight). All-time best marks for place were set for 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th — and probably a lot more places (Tilastopaja’s database only tracks through 12th).

In all, 65 of the 101 finishers (64%) ran personal bests and eight set national records.

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