M 10K Preview: Does Joshua Cheptegei 3-Peat? Or Is There a New King In the Distances?

Last year’s men’s 10,000 final at the World Athletics Championships was wild as eight men hit the bell together before Joshua Cheptegei emerged as the repeat champion.

What: Men’s 10,000 Final at 2023 World Athletics Championships
When: Sunday, August 20, 2023 – 6:25 p.m. in Hungary (12:25 pm ET)
2023 Entrants listed at bottom of page
2022 WCH Results Top 10
1 Joshua Cheptegei Uganda (UGA) 27:27.43 SB
2 Stanley Mburu Kenya (KEN) 27:27.90 SB
3 Jacob Kiplimo Uganda (UGA) 27:27.97 SB
4 Grant Fisher United States (USA) 27:28.14
5 Selemon Barega Ethiopia (ETH) 27:28.39
6 Mohamed Ahmed Canada (CAN) 27:30.27
7 Berihu Aregawi Ethiopia (ETH) 27:31.00
8 Daniel Mateiko Kenya (KEN) 27:33.57 SB
9 Joe Klecker United States (USA) 27:38.73 SB
10 Isaac Kimeli Belgium (BEL) 27:43.50 SB

The men’s 10,000 in Budapest once again has all the makings of a classic. One of the following three studs will be your winner.

Joshua Cheptegei – Uganda – The 26-year-old is the world record holder in the 5000 and 10,000 and has won the last two World 10,000 titles as well as the 2021 Olympic 5000 title. He’s in great form as well. After getting bronze at World XC in February, he opened up in Florence on June 2 in 12:53.81 (4th place) and improved to 12:41.61 in Lausanne on June 30 (2nd place).

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Berihu Aregawi – Ethiopia – The 22-year-old who was 4th in the 2021 Olympic 10,000 has also been great in 2023. He earned World XC silver then ran 12:40.45 FTW in Lausanne (a world leader and #5 all-time) before running 12:42.58 in Monaco (2nd).

Selemon Barega – Ethiopia – The Olympic champ is still only 23. Barega hasn’t been magnificent this year (12:56 in Florence, 13:00 in Lausanne, 2nd Ethiopian trials) but should not be discounted. His 5th-place result last year is a bit misleading. He was the last man battling Cheptegei in the final 100 but faded a lot once victory was out of the question.

The Favorite

Jacob Kiplimo and Cheptegei ahead of the NYC Half in March (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

Joshua Cheptegei deserves to be considered the favorite as the world record holder and two-time defending champ. That being said, in 2019, Chetpegei went into the 10,000 as the reigning World XC champ. This year, his World XC title was taken away from his younger countryman Jacob Kiplimo, who also destroyed him at the NYC Half. When Kiplimo opened up outdoors at 12:41.73 in Oslo on June 15, it was fair to wonder, “Wow, has Kiplimo now surpassed Cheptegei as the king of Uganda (and maybe the world)?” But then Cheptegei ran 12:41.61 on June 30.

Kiplimo earned bronze in the 10,000 at the 2021 Olympics and 2022 Worlds, and Budapest was shaping up as his best chance yet for a global title on the track. Unfortunately, the Ugandan federation announced on Friday that Kiplimo won’t be running Worlds in 2023 due to a hamstring injury. That showdown will have to wait until Paris 2024.

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Aregawi has been in supreme form in 2023 and he’s beaten Cheptegei twice this year (once at World XC and in Lausanne), but he’s never medalled on the track. Also Aregawi was 0-4 lifetime against Barega in the 10,000 until he beat him in the Ethiopian Trials.

Other potential medallists

In listing the potential winners, I didn’t mention any Kenyans. The silver medallist from Eugene Stanley Mburu had a slow start to the year and didn’t run the Kenyan trials. The winner of the Kenyan trials Nicholas Kipkorir certainly could medal but a win would stun me. After finishing 8th (2019), 4th (2021), and 7th (2022) in the last three global 5000 finals, Kipkorir decided he needs to move up. His fitness has been moving in the right direction all year. Only 13th at World XC, he only ran 13:10 in Florence but then won the Kenyan 10,000 trials before improving to 12:55.46 in Monaco on July 21.

The third Ethiopian in the race, Yismaw Dilu, has very limited results listed on his profile. When you run 27:08.85 at age 17 at the Ethiopian trials to make the team, you can’t be totally ignored but a guy who was only 15th in the U20 race at World XC is unlikely to medal.

Canada’s Moh Ahmed has two global 5000 medals on his CV and was with the leaders last year at the bell. However, he’s never medalled in the 10,000. 6th in the 10,000 in both 2021 and 2022, that seems likely roughly where he’ll finish in 2023.

The Americans

Kincaid won his second US 10k title in July (Kevin Morris photo)

Woody Kincaid and Joe Klecker lead the American hopes. Kincaid is the US champ, has an unreal kick, and he’s been in the form of his life this year, running an American indoor record of 12:51 and an outdoor pb of 12:54 in Florence. That’s the good news. The bad news is it seems unlikely he’ll be within striking distance at the bell. In Florence, he was already dropped and his massive kick just ended up getting him a decent result. In Budapest, he’ll be racing a couple of who have run at least 12:42 this year (though Kiplimo scratching obviously helps his chances).

If it’s a 27:27 race like last year and eight guys are still in the lead pack or a 27:43 race as it was in 2021 and one of them is Kincaid, then watch out. But last year’s race may have been slower as it was held at 1 p.m. while the 2021 Olympic final was super humid (and Kincaid still couldn’t keep up). The 10,000 this year is at 6:25 p.m. in Budapest. I’d be quite surprised if the winning time isn’t much faster than the last two years but less so now that we just learned Kiplimo is out. Kiplimo’s absence really helps Kincaid.

Klecker is tough as nails but his kick just doesn’t seem good enough to earn him a medal on the track.

We don’t know if Sean McGorty will end up running the 10,000 or ceding his spot to his Bowerman Track Club teammate, Grant Fisher, so McGorty can focus on the 5,000. Regardless, neither one of them is going to medal in this one. Fisher was 4th last year and 5th in 2022 but he was only 4th at USAs and medalling after cross-training due to a stress reaction isn’t feasible.

Who wins the men's 10,000?

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Rojo Prediction: 1) Cheptegei 2) Aregawi 3) Barega

The changing of the guard in Uganda may happen next year but with no Kiplimo, Cheptegei has to be the pick right now.

5000 Preview

Many of these runners likely will double back for the 5000 later in the meet where they’ll also face some new names including defending champ Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Yomif Kejelcha (12:41.73 sb), Hagos Gebrhiwet (12:42.18 sb), Jacob Krop (12:46.02 sb), Mo Katir (12:45.01 sb), Luis Grijalva (12:52.97 sb), Abdi Nur (13:05.17 sb) and Oscar Chelimo, last year’s surprise bronze medallist. It remains to be seen which guys will double back. If he medals in the 10,000, the Ethiopians may be more inclined to let Aregawi double back.

We’ll preview that event formally after the 10,000 is held in Budapest and we have a better idea of who is doubling.

Full 10,000 Entrants (includes alternates)

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