All eyes will be on Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei when the gun sounds for the men’s race at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships set for Saturday, October 16 in Gdynia, Poland.
Despite his half marathon inexperience, Joshua Cheptegei will quite rightly command the spotlight given the year he has had.
The Ugandan has set world records in all three of his races in 2020, starting with his 12:51 clocking for 5km on the roads in Monaco in February and followed six months later by his 12:35.36 5000m run, also in Monaco.
More recently, he took a five-second chunk off the 10,000m world record in Valencia on 7 October with his stunning 26:11.00 performance.
If Cheptegei is victorious on Saturday, he will become just the second man in the modern era to win global titles on the track, road and cross-country, joining Khalid Skah. Incidentally, Skah the winner in 1994 – is also the last man to win the World Half on his debut at the distance.
One of Cheptegei’s strongest challengers could well be his youngest team-mate, Jacob Kiplimo.
The 19-year-old has also been in sensational form this year, clocking a world-leading Ugandan record of 7:26.64 for 3000m in Rome and setting a 5000m PB of 12:48.63 in Ostrava.
His last clash with Cheptegei was at the 2019 World Cross Country Championships, where he shared the lead for much of the way before finishing second behind his compatriot.
Since 2006, all but one of the nine men’s titles have been won by either Zersenay Tadese or Geoffrey Kamworor. Neither man will be in Gdynia, meaning for the first time since 2010 a new name will feature on the top step of the podium.
But despite the absence of Kamworor, Kenyan team is still strong and they will be keen to win their first senior men’s global team title since 2016.
World leader Kibiwott Kandie heads to Gdynia off the back of four high-quality victories this year.
Benard Kimeli and Benard Ngeno, both of whom have identical PBs of 59:07, join Kandie in making their global championships debut.
Ngeno, a half marathon specialist, has finished on the podium in his past nine races over the distance and has a season’s best of 59:26.
Leonard Barsoton, the 2017 world cross-country silver medallist, adds further strength to the Kenyan team. A 59:09 performer at his best, Barsoton’s fastest clocking this year is 1:00:02.
Morris Munene Gachaga, another experienced half-marathon runner, completes the Kenyan team. He hasn’t raced this year but has a 59:22 PB from last year.
Ethiopia’s Guye Adola could spring a surprise.
He was a relative unknown ahead of the 2014 World Half Marathon Championships, but he chopped more than two minutes from his PB in Copenhagen to take bronze in 59:21.
African 10,000m silver medallist and two-time Delhi Half Marathon winner Andamlak Belihu also features on the Ethiopian team.
Other contenders include European record-holder Julien Wanders and his Swiss team-mate Tadesse Abraham, winner of the 2016 European half-marathon title.
Morocco’s African Games silver medallist Mohamed Reda El Araby could also feature among the leaders.
Eritrea – winners of team medals at the past 10 editions, including gold in 2014 – hasn’t entered a team for Gdynia.
Japan and USA, who have sent teams to all 23 previous editions, also won’t be represented this weekend.