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(World Athletics) - As the year draws to a close, we look back at the key moments of 2021 in each area of the sport.

The series continues with a review of road running and will be followed over the coming days by reviews of other event groups.


Women’s 5km and 10km

Season top list - 5km

14:29 Senbere Teferi 🇪🇹 ETH Herzogenaurach 12 September
14:39 Dawit Seyaum 🇪🇹 ETH Lille 6 November
14:41 Beth Potter 🇬🇧 GBR Barrowford 3 April
14:42 Norah Jeruto 🇰🇪 KEN Lille 6 November
14:43 Beatrice Chepkoech 🇰🇪 KEN Monaco 14 February

Full season top list

Season top list - 10km

29:38 Kalkidan Gezahegne 🇧🇭 BRN Geneva 3 October
29:50 Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi 🇰🇪 KEN Valencia 3 October
30:01 Agnes Tirop 🇰🇪 KEN Herzogenaurach 12 September
30:08 Norah Jeruto 🇰🇪 KEN Valencia 3 October
30:17 Sheila Chepkirui Kiprotich 🇰🇪 KEN Herzogenaurach 12 September

Full season top list

 

Season at a glance

Both categories of world records for women’s road events – mixed and women-only – were broken in the 5km and 10km this year.

The first world record came in the Monaco 5K in mid-February when Kenya’s world steeplechase champion Beatrice Chepkoech shaved five seconds off the world record for a mixed race, clocking 14:43.


In the months that followed, Britain’s Beth Potter and Norway’s Karoline Bjerkli Grovdal both produced faster times than Chepkoech’s mark, but their performances could not be ratified as a world record. Potter clocked 14:41 in Barrowford but there were insufficient officials (for ratification purposes) and no doping controls. Grovdal ran 14:39 in Disena, but the course was found to be 12.5 metres short.

But in September in Herzogenaurach, Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi ran the fastest road 5km in history. In a women-only race, which are usually slower than mixed races as runners don’t have the benefit of running alongside faster men, Teferi clocked 14:29 to smash Sifan Hassan’s women-only world record by 15 seconds. The mark is still pending ratification.

At that same event in Herzogenaurach, Kenya’s Agnes Tirop – who tragically died just weeks later – set a women-only world record over 10km, clocking 30:01.

Just three weeks later, the 30-minute barrier was broken in two different races on the same day. Bahrain’s Olympic 10,000m silver medallist Kalkidan Gezahegn set a mixed-race world record of 29:38 in Geneva, beating Tirop (30:20) and Celliphine Chespol (30:28). Little more than an hour earlier, Kenya’s Margaret Kipkemboi clocked 29:50 in Valencia to beat compatriots Norah Tanui (30:08) and Sandra Tuei (30:45).

A similarly high-quality event took place in Lille in early November, where Dawit Seyaum clocked 14:39 for 5km – which could not be ratified as a world record as her doping control test took place the next day – and Chespol won the 10km in 30:19.

There appears to be a marked increase in popularity for shorter road events among elite athletes, with many track specialists – including several steeplechasers, interestingly – now devoting a large portion of their off-track season to them.

The performances achieved this year have led to much better depth on the world all-time lists; more than a third of the top 20 marks of all time over 10km were achieved in 2021. Five of the six fastest 5km performances of all time were also recorded this year.

 

Men’s 5km and 10km

Season top list - 5km

12:52 Berihu Aregawi 🇪🇹 ETH Lille 6 November
13:06 Jacob Krop 🇰🇪 KEN Herzogenaurach 12 September
13:09 Muktar Edris 🇪🇹 ETH Herzogenaurach 12 September
13:13 Joshua Cheptegei 🇺🇬 UGA Monaco 14 February
13:13 Hosea Kiplangat 🇺🇬 UGA Herzogenaurach 12 September

Full season top list

Season top list - 10km

26:43 Rhonex Kipruto 🇰🇪 KEN Herzogenaurach 12 September
26:51 Kibiwott Kandie 🇰🇪 KEN Geneva 3 October
26:56 Tadese Worku 🇪🇹 ETH Herzogenaurach 12 September
26:57 Felix Kipkoech 🇰🇪 KEN Geneva 3 October
27:09 Kennedy Kimutai 🇰🇪 KEN Herzogenaurach 12 September

Full season top list

 

Season at a glance

For the first time since 2017, world records were not broken in either of the men’s two shortest road disciplines. But that’s not to say it wasn’t a good year for the 5km and 10km.

Eight men bettered 13:20 for 5km and four men broke 27 minutes for 10km – both records in terms of seasonal depth. Berihu Aregawi topped the world list for 5km this year with his 12:52 run in Lille, just one second shy of Joshua Cheptegei’s world record for the distance. Rhonex Kipruto, meanwhile, topped the annual 10km list with 26:43, the third-fastest time in history and just 19 seconds shy of his own world record.


Cheptegei held the 5km world lead for most of the year, as the world 10,000m champion won in Monaco in February with 13:13. That time was bettered by Kenya’s Jacob Krop (13:06) and Muktar Edris (13:09) in Herzogenaurach in September in a race of similar quality and depth to the Monaco event.

But less than two months later, Aregawi dominated the 5km in Lille with his storming 12:52 run to jump straight to the top of the 2021 world list and second on the world all-time list.

Between them, the 10km races in Lille, Herzogenaurach and Geneva produced 13 of the 14 fastest times this year.

Kipruto’s world-leading 26:43 came in Herzogenaurach, where he finished 13 seconds ahead of Tadese Worku, who clocked an Ethiopian U20 record of 26:56. Two men also finished inside 27 minutes in Geneva, where Kibiwott Kandie (26:51) won from Felix Kipkoech (26:57). And Ethiopian teenager Chimdesa Debele was the top finisher in Lille, winning in 27:14.

Although there are still a few top-level international races on the calendar for 2021, just 23 men have broken 28 minutes for 10km this year, which is down on the totals for 2019 (44) and 2018 (33).

 

Women’s half marathon

Season top list

1:02:52 Letesenbet Gidey 🇪🇹 ETH Valencia 24 October
1:03:51 Yalemzerf Yehualaw 🇪🇹 ETH Valencia 24 October
1:04:02 Ruth Chepngetich 🇰🇪 KEN Istanbul 4 April
1:04:51 Hellen Obiri 🇰🇪 KEN Istanbul 4 April
1:04:54 Sheila Chepkirui Kiprotich 🇰🇪 KEN Valencia 24 October

Full season top list


World Athletics rankings

1 Sheila Chepkirui Kiprotich 🇰🇪 KEN 1323
2 Senbere Teferi 🇪🇹 ETH 1306
3 Yalemzerf Yehualaw 🇪🇹 ETH 1305
4 Norah Jeruto 🇰🇪 KEN 1303
5 Ruth Chepngetich 🇰🇪 KEN 1290

Full rankings

 

Season at a glance

Topped by one of the greatest ever displays of distance running, the women’s half marathon has been on fire in 2021.

At the end of October, Letesenbet Gidey won the Valencia Half Marathon in 1:02:52, smashing the previous world record – set by world marathon champion Ruth Chepngetich just six months prior – by 70 seconds.

What made the feat more incredible is that it was Gidey’s debut at the distance. But then, for someone who has clocked world records of 14:06.62 for 5000m and 29:01.03 for 10,000m on the track, it perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising that the 23-year-old was able to crack 63 minutes for the half marathon.


Gidey’s compatriot Yalemzerf Yehualaw finished second in Valencia in 1:03:51, also inside the previous world record. And it was vindication of sorts for Yehualaw, who had won a half marathon in Larne, Northern Ireland, in 1:03:44 at the end of August, only to later discover that the course was short by 54 metres. Had it been the correct distance, she most likely would have still broken the world record.

But as it was, Chepngetich’s world record of 1:04:02 at the Istanbul Half Marathon in April remained on the record books for another two months before Gidey’s run in Valencia.

Yehualaw finished behind Chepngetich in Istanbul, clocking 1:04:40, with world 5000m champion Hellen Obiri placing third in 1:04:51 – a time which, up until 2017, would have been a world record. It was the first time that three women had finished inside 65 minutes for a half marathon, but it then happened again in Valencia, where Sheila Kiprotich took third place in 1:04:54.

It now also means that half of the 12 fastest performances in history were set in 2021.

Three other half marathons in 2021 were won in sub-66-minute times. Ethiopia’s Tsehay Gemechu won the Copenhagen Half Marathon in 1:05:08, former world record-holder Joyciline Jepkosgei won in Berlin in 1:05:16, and Gotytom Gebreslase won in Manama in 1:05:36. The latter was a particularly deep race with the top 12 women finishing inside 1:08:10, a record for depth.

With the likes of Gidey leading the way, the depth in this event looks set to improve in the coming years. And the biggest question is: by how much can she improve on her stunning world record?

 

Men’s half marathon

Season top list

57:31 Jacob Kiplimo 🇺🇬 UGA Lisbon 21 November
58:07 Abel Kipchumba 🇰🇪 KEN Valencia 24 October
58:09 Rhonex Kipruto 🇰🇪 KEN Valencia 24 October
58:26 Daniel Mataiko 🇰🇪 KEN Valencia 24 October
58:28 Kennedy Kimutai 🇰🇪 KEN Valencia 24 October

Full season top list


World Athletics rankings

1 Rhonex Kipruto 🇰🇪 KEN 1355
2 Kibiwott Kandie 🇰🇪 KEN 1331
3 Jacob Kiplimo 🇺🇬 UGA 1293
4 Alexander Mutiso 🇰🇪 KEN 1279
5 Philemon Kiplimo 🇰🇪 KEN 1276

Full rankings

 

Season at a glance

Valencia, as it has done for many road races in recent years, may have hosted the deepest race of the season in the men’s half marathon, but it was the Lisbon Half Marathon that produced the fastest time of the year – and, indeed, in history.

Running in the city where half marathon legend Zersenay Tadese set the world record 11 years prior, world half marathon champion Jacob Kilimo triumphed in the Portuguese capital in 57:31, shaving one second off the world record that had been set last year by Kenya’s Kibiwott Kandie.


Although it was a strong race with the first nine athletes finishing inside 60 minutes, Kiplimo still managed to win by more than two minutes.

In Valencia one month prior, Abel Kipchumba won in 58:07 as the first seven men finished inside 59 minutes and the top nine finished inside 59:30 – record depth once again in the Spanish city.

Kipchumba was also victorious in Herzogenaurach in September, clocking 58:48. There were also fast winning times in Berlin (Felix Kipkoech, 58:57), Copenhagen (Amedework Walelegn, 59:10), Padua (Victor Kipchirchir, 59:19) and Poznan (Esa Huseyidin, 59:32) – all of which contributed to the record depth this season with nine men running sub-59 and 41 men running sub-60-minute times.

 

Women’s marathon

Season top list

2:17:43 Joyciline Jepkosgei 🇰🇪 KEN London 3 October
2:17:57 Angela Tanui 🇰🇪 KEN Amsterdam 17 October
2:17:58 Degitu Azimeraw 🇪🇹 ETH London 3 October
2:18:18 Ashete Bekere 🇪🇹 ETH London 3 October
2:18:40 Brigid Kosgei 🇰🇪 KEN London 3 October

Full season top list


World Athletics rankings

1 Peres Jepchirchir 🇰🇪 KEN 1430
2 Joyciline Jepkosgei 🇰🇪 KEN 1402
3 Lonah Chemtai Salpeter 🇮🇱 ISR 1378
4 Mizuki Matsuda 🇯🇵 JPN 1369
5 Brigid Kosgei 🇰🇪 KEN 1361

Full rankings


Olympic medallists

🥇 Peres Jepchirchir 🇰🇪 KEN 2:27:20
🥈 Brigid Kosgei 🇰🇪 KEN 2:27:36
🥉 Molly Seidel 🇺🇸 USA 2:27:46
  Full results


Major winners

Olympic Games: Peres Jepchirchir 🇰🇪 KEN 2:27:20
Berlin: Gotytom Gebreslase 🇪🇹 ETH 2:20:09
London: Joyciline Jepkosgei 🇰🇪 KEN 2:17:43
Chicago: Ruth Chepngetich 🇰🇪 KEN 2:22:31
Boston: Diana Kipyokei 🇰🇪 KEN 2:24:45
Amsterdam: Angela Tanui 🇰🇪 KEN 2:17:57
New York City: Peres Jepchirchir 🇰🇪 KEN 2:22:39
Valencia: Nancy Jelagat 🇰🇪 KEN 2:19:30


Season at a glance

This year is a great example of why quality of victories are far more significant than fast times.

Peres Jepchirchir, for example, is 24th on the season list, yet few would argue against her being considered the world’s No.1 marathon runner in 2021.

Having this year shifted her focus from the half marathon to the full marathon, Jepchirchir won the Olympic title in 2:27:20, then three months later won the New York City Marathon – one of seven Elite Platinum Label road races with international elite fields in 2021 – in a season’s best of 2:22:39.


Outside of the Olympic Games, the London Marathon was perhaps the most significant race of the year over the classic distance. Joyciline Jepkosgei won in a world-leading 2:17:43 to move to seventh on the world all-time list with Degitu Azimeraw taking second place in 2:17:58. The times achieved by Ashete Bekere (2:18:18), Brigid Kosgei (2:18:40) and Lonah Chemtai Salpeter (2:18:54) are the fastest ever marks set when finishing third, fourth and fifth in any marathon.

Two weeks later in Amsterdam, Angela Tanui jumped to second on the world list with her course record victory of 2:17:57. Valencia winner Nancy Jelagat (2:19:31) and Milan champion Hiwot Gebrekidan (2:19:35) were the other sub-2:20 performers of the season.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic forcing the postponement of several road races, events such as the London and Boston marathons were moved to later in the year. Indeed, six of the Elite Platinum Label races – five of them also forming part of the World Marathon Majors series – were held within a six-week period between September and November.

Other notable winners of those races included Gotytom Gebreslase in Berlin (2:20:09), Ruth Chepngetich in Chicago (2:22:31) and Diana Kipyokei in Boston (2:24:45).

But despite the outstanding depth in Valencia and London, the season as a whole couldn’t beat the record depth achieved in 2019.

 

Men’s marathon

Season top list

2:02:57 Titus Ekiru 🇰🇪 KEN Milan 16 May
2:03:36 Bashir Abdi 🇧🇪 BEL Rotterdam 24 October
2:03:39 Tamirat Tola 🇪🇹 ETH Amsterdam 17 October
2:03:55 Reuben Kiprop Kipyego 🇰🇪 KEN Milan 16 May
2:04:01 Sisay Lemma 🇪🇹 ETH London 3 October

Full season top list


World Athletics rankings

1 Lawrence Cherono 🇰🇪 KEN 1419
2 Birhanu Legese 🇪🇹 ETH 1418
3 Sisay Lemma 🇪🇹 ETH 1405
4 Evans Chebet 🇰🇪 KEN 1403
5 Guye Adola 🇪🇹 ETH 1378

Full rankings


Olympic medallists

🥇 Eliud Kipchoge 🇰🇪 KEN 2:08:38
🥈 Abdi Nageeye 🇳🇱 NED 2:09:58
🥉 Bashir Abdi 🇧🇪 BEL 2:10:00
  Full results


Major winners

Olympic Games: Eliud Kipchoge 🇰🇪 KEN 2:08:38
Berlin: Guye Adola 🇪🇹 ETH 2:05:45
London: Sisay Lemma 🇪🇹 ETH 2:04:01
Chicago: Seifu Tura 🇪🇹 ETH 2:06:12
Boston: Benson Kipruto 🇰🇪 KEN 2:09:51
Amsterdam: Tamirat Tola 🇪🇹 ETH 2:03:38
New York City: Albert Korir 🇰🇪 KEN 2:08:22
Valencia: Lawrence Cherono 🇰🇪 KEN 2:05:11


Season at a glance

Another year, another opportunity for Eliud Kipchoge to underline his status as an all-time marathon great.

The Kenyan distance runner contested two marathons in 2021, producing a short-lived world lead in one, and securing a second successive Olympic title in the other.

At the NN Mission Marathon event in Enschede in April, he beat a high-quality field by more than two minutes in 2:04:30, a time which led the 2021 world list for a month.

But his run in Sapporo at the Olympic Games was even more remarkable. Competing against 105 of the world’s best distance runners, Kipchoge broke away in the 31st kilometre and went on to win in 2:08:38, six seconds quicker than his Rio victory and the fifth-fastest run in Olympic history. His winning margin of 1:20 was the biggest in an Olympic men’s marathon since Frank Shorter's win in 1972.


Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands took silver (2:09:58) and Belgium’s Bashir Abdi earned bronze (2:10:00).

Most of the year’s big international marathons were held in the months that followed the Olympics. Berlin (Guye Adola, 2:05:45) and London (Sisay Lemma, 2:04:01) produced swift winning times, as is often the case, but the two main Dutch marathons placed higher on the 2021 world list. Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola set a course record of 2:03:39 to win in Amsterdam, while Abdi broke the European record with 2:03:36 to win in Rotterdam one week later.

Yet neither winner could quite manage to bump Titus Ekiru off the top of the world list. The Kenyan maintained his impressive marathon record in 2021, winning in Milan in a world-leading 2:02:57 in May, and then taking top honours in Abu Dhabi in November in 2:06:13. Of the eight marathons he has finished, Ekiru has now won seven of them.

Other big city winners included Seifu Tura in Chicago (2:06:12), Benson Kipruto in Boston (2:09:51), Albert Korir in New York City (2:08:22) and Lawrence Cherono in Valencia (2:05:11). The marathons in Valencia, Milan and Amsterdam produced remarkable depth as the top 11 athletes in all of them finished inside 2:07:00.

That depth was reflected in the world lists as a whole with record numbers of men running inside 2:05 (23), 2:06 (42) and 2:07 (76).

World Athletics


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