Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir is expected to face stiff opposition from Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh in the women’s race at the 23rd edition of the World Athletics Half Marathon set for Saturday Gdynia, Poland.
Peres and Yeshaneh have emerged as favourites in the race that has attracted 126 elite women runners drawn from 52 countries.
This will be the first time in the history of the women’s race where two current world record-holders will meet.
For seven years now there have been separate world records in women’s roads events – one for women-only races, and one for mixed races.
The records have been broken six times by four runners who will line up in Gdynia.
And this year both half marathon records have been broken with Ethiopia’s Yeshaneh clocking 1:04:31 at the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon in February.
Kenya’s Jepchirchir clocked 1:05:34 in a women-only race at the Prague 21.1K in September.
Jepchirchir’s performance is the more recent of the two, so there is little doubt over the 27-year-old’s form heading into Gdynia.
She is also a past winner of the title, having won gold in Cardiff in 2016, and she went on to set a short-lived world record of 1:05:06 in Ras Al Khaimah in 2017.
She sat out most of 2018 after giving birth to a daughter but she returned to form in 2019 with victories at the Lisbon Half Marathon (1:06:54) and Saitama Marathon (2:23:50).
Yeshaneh, however, is a formidable opponent and she’ll be lifted by the memories of their one previous clash, at the 2016 Delhi Half Marathon, where she finished three places and 36 seconds ahead of Jepchirchir.
Yeshaneh has devoted her time on the road after a less successful period on track.
She finished ninth in the 10,000m at the 2013 World Championships and 14th in the 5000m at the 2016 Olympic Games.
She has finished in the top two in 10 of her past 12 half marathons and has impressed over the full marathon distance, placing second in Chicago last year in a PB of 2:20:51.
Other formidable opponents likely to spring up surprises include:
Netsanet Kebede Gudeta and Joyciline Jepkosgei, the gold and silver medallists from 2018 and, incidentally, the previous world record-holders of the two women’s half marathon marks.
Jepchirchir and Jepkosgei are joined on the Kenyan team by 2019 World Championships 10,000m women’s race 4th place finisher Rosemary Wanjiru, Dorcas Kimeli and Brillian Kipkoech.
The Ethiopian team also has Zeineba Yimer and Yalemzerf Yehualaw. Medhin Beyene, Nigsti Haftu and Sisay Meseret Gola complete Ethiopia’s entries.