Eighteen months after winning the world title in the marathon, Ruth Chepngetich cemented her status as an all-time great for half the distance, smashing the world record* at the N Kolay Istanbul Half Marathon, a World Athletics Elite Label road race, with 1:04:02.

It was one of the most competitive fields ever assembled for a half marathon, with marathon world record-holder Brigid Kosgei, two-time world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri and world half marathon medallists Yalemzerf Yehualaw and Melat Kejeta also in the line-up.

But Chepngetich’s victory was comfortable, breaking away from the last of her opponents, Yehualaw, with about three kilometres to go before going on to win by 38 seconds.

She covered the first 5km in 15:07, then passed through 10km in 30:21, a personal best for the distance. She maintained that pace, covering the next two 5km segments in 15:09 and 15:13, and crossed the line in 1:04:02.

“Istanbul is my city, I love running here,” said Chepngetich, who had previously won two editions of the Istanbul Half Marathon and two editions of the Istanbul Marahon. “The world record is something I have been dreaming about for some time and I am so happy to do it on the streets of Istanbul. I am really happy for this amazing result.”

She becomes just the second athlete in history to win a world marathon title and break a half marathon world record, following in the footsteps of legendary Norwegian distance runner Grete Waitz.

*Subject to the usual ratification procedure

• Report: Chepngetich smashes world half marathon record in Istanbul

• Video: full broadcast of N Kolay Istanbul Half Marathon


Ruth Chepngetich
Born: 8 Aug 1994. Coach: self.

Ruth Chepngetich may still seem like a relative newcomer to the international scene – at the time of the last Olympic Games, she had only competed in a couple of races outside of Kenya – but she has been running for most of her life.

The oldest of five children (two girls, three boys), Chepngetich was born and raised in Kericho. It was during her time at Sigowet Primary School where her passion for athletics started. She would run the 4km distance to school each morning, then return home at midday for lunch before running back to school in the afternoon and returning in the evening, covering a total distance of 16 kilometres each day.

It wasn’t long before she tested herself in competitions, starting off in the 400m before moving up to 3000m and 5000m races, eventually reaching district and provincial level. She dabbled in the 10,000m but didn’t like the increase in distance, so dropped back down to 3000m and 5000m for a bit longer. She even tried out the steeplechase for a brief period in 2013.

After completing her studies at Momoniat Secondary School in Kericho, Chepngetich moved straight to road running and joined a group of athletes in Chepsion. From there, she moved again to Kericho town, where she was coached for a brief spell by Samuel Bii.

Chepngetich started to make good progress in the domestic races she contested throughout 2015. She finished 21st at the South Rift Cross Country Championships in January that year, then placed 15th at the Ndakaini Half Marathon in September before capping her season with a victory over 15km in Kericho.

“I competed in these races but I had no clue on how to plan for the races and how to spread the energies over the distances,” she said in an interview with The Nation.

She moved again at the end of the year, relocating to Ngong in Kajiado County – the same area where two-time world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri is from. Since being based there, Chepngetich has been largely self-coached, but occasionally joins a local group of male athletes for some of their sessions.

“I obviously know what works for me in training, so I don’t need a coach,” says Chepngetich, who covers about 170km a week in training. “So long as I have some good male training partners that can push me, then I am fine.”

Her daughter Sharleen, now 10, is another big reason why Chepngetich continues to push herself hard in training.

In her first competitive outing outside of Kenya, Chepngetich clocked 1:11:33 to finish fourth at the Rabat Half Marathon in March 2016. A brief injury spell put her out of action for a few months, but she ended the year with a runner-up finish at the Nairobi Half Marathon, clocking 1;14:13 at altitude.

Her progress continued into 2017 and she set PBs in her first four half marathons of the year, winning all of them. She started with 1:09:06 in Adana, then 1:08:08 in Paris, 1:07:42 in Milan and finally 1:06:19 in Istanbul, putting her just outside the top 10 on the world all-time list at that time.

She returned to the Turkish city later in the year to make her marathon debut and she achieved a stunning 2:22:36 victory, hinting that her future lay at the longer distances.

She represented Kenya internationally for the first time in 2018, finishing 13th at the World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia. Just two weeks later, she finished second at the Paris Marathon in 2:22:59. Later in the year, however, she successfully defended her Istanbul Marathon title with a huge PB of 2:18:35, putting her seventh on the world all-time list.

Just two months later, Chepngetich revised her marathon PB again, winning in Dubai in 2:17:08 to move up to third on the world all-time list. It marked the beginning of her best season to date, as she went on to reduce her half marathon PB to 1:05:29 when winning in Istanbul, then later in the year struck gold in the marathon at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.

The hot and humid conditions in the Qatari capital meant it wasn’t a race for fast times, but it gave Chepgetich the opportunity to show that she’s more than just a time-trial racer and, when needed, she can execute a tactical race plan.

That’s not to say it was plain sailing, though. She considered dropping out after about 17km as she started to experience stomach pains. Thankfully they eventually subsided and she made a decisive break as she entered the last of the six scheduled laps.

At the start of 2020, she had two goals: the Olympic Games and breaking the world record. The Covid-19 pandemic, however, put paid to those and so Chepngetich raced sparingly, saving herself for 2021. She finished third at the London Marathon in 2:22:05 and then clocked a half marathon PB of 1:05:06 to finish second in New Delhi.

As was the case last year, Chepngetich’s 2021 racing schedule has had to maintain a degree of flexibility. She had initially been set to compete at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in February, but when that race got cancelled, she turned her attention to Istanbul. And given the fond memories she has created in the Turkish city over the years – four victories from four races – she was more than happy to target a fifth triumph.

Her winning time of 1:04:02 in Istanbul was a 29-second improvement on the previous world record. But it’s the full marathon distance where she excels, and Chepngetich will head to the Tokyo Olympics as one of the big favourites for the 42.195km event.


World half marathon record progression

1:06:44 Elana Meyer (RSA) Tokyo 1999
1:06:25 Lornah Kiplagat (NED) Udine 2007
1:05:50 Mary Keitany (KEN) Ras Al Khaimah 2011
1:05:12 Florence Kiplagat (KEN) Barcelona 2014
1:05:09 Florence Kiplagat (KEN) Barcelona 2015
1:05:06 Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) Ras Al Khaimah 2017
1:04:52 Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) Prague 2017
1:04:51 Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) Valencia 2017
1:04:31 Ababel Yeshaneh (ETH) Ras Al Khaimah 2020
1:04:02 Ruth Chepngetich (KEN) Istanbul 2021

World half marathon all-time list

1:04:02 Ruth Chepngetich (KEN) Istanbul 2021
1:04:31 Ababel Yeshaneh (ETH) Ras Al Khaimah 2020
1:04:40 Yalemzerf Yehualaw (ETH) Istanbul 2021
1:04:49 Brigid Kosgei (KEN) Ras Al Khaimah 2020
1:04:51 Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN) Valencia 2017
1:04:51 Hellen Obiri (KEN) Istanbul 2021
1:04:52 Fancy Chemutai (KEN) Ras Al Khaimah 2018
1:04:55 Mary Keitany (KEN) Ras Al Khaimah 2018
1:05:04 Joan Melly (KEN) Prague 2018
1:05:06 Peres Jepchirchir (KEN) Ras Al Khaimah 2017

Ruth Chepngetich’s progression

(half marathon and marathon)
2016: 1:11:33, –
2017: 1:06:19, 2:22:36
2018: 1:07:02, 2:18:35
2019: 1:05:29, 2:17:08
2020: 1:05:06, 2:22:05
2021: 1:04:02, -i

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