CHEPTEGEI’S MARATHON FUTURE

     With World Athletics scrapping the 5000m and 10,000m from its Diamond League circuit, it has fallen to individual event organizers to maintain allegiance to these historic track events. Today (Oct. 7, 2020), in Valencia, Spain local organizers in cooperation with Global Sports Communications and NN Running successfully staged two world record time trials, one in the women’s 5000-meters, the other in the men’s 10,000.

Due to a Covid-emptied stadium, the natural excitement of such attempts was minimized, making the attempts, one would assume, that much more daunting. The ideal conditions, excellent pacing, and introduction of new carbon-plated spikes offset that disadvantage.

First up, Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia pipped countrywoman Tirunesh Dibaba’s 2008 mark of 14:11.15 with a gradually increasing pace that produced a 14:06.65 to begin the Night of World Records, as it was billed.  At the finish, final pace setter Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya, the world record holder in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, lifted Gidey in a warm congratulatory embrace.  The evening was worth watching for that moment alone in these divisive times.

Great sportswomanship shown by pacer Beatrice Chepkoech

Next up the new sensation of distance running, Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda, took on Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele’s 10,000m world record of 26:17.53, which was set in Brussels in 2005. Not only has the mark been as resilient as a cockroach to attack over the years, with so few 10,000s being conducted nowadays, and less money available for track spinning at distance, there hasn’t been a specific world record attempt made in the 10,000m in I don’t know how many years.

But if anyone was going to take Bekele’s mark down, the 24-year-old Cheptegei would be the man. As reigning World Cross Country and 10,000m track champion, Joshua had the strength. And with world records on the track and roads over 5K this year, speed was also in hand. 

And when the job was done at a metronomic 2:37/km at 26:11, Cheptegei became the 11th man to hold both the 5000 and 10,000-meter records simultaneously.  What’s next seems evident, Olympic glory. If Tokyo 2021 comes off, there’s no reason to doubt Cheptegei’s ability to double.  But then what?

Success!

We went through a stretch not long back when pure marathon runners with little track experience stood at the top of the world list with men like Geoffrey Mutai, Patrick Makau, Wilson Kipsang, and Dennis Kimetto. But mixed in were two marathon record holders who were also 5000 & 10,000-meter record-setters earlier in their careers, Kenya’s Paul Tergat and Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie. And though now former 5 & 10k king Kenenisa Bekele hasn’t yet brought the marathon world record into his portfolio – and looks less and less likely to do so as he ages out – his marathon best remains just two seconds off Eliud Kipchoge’s official mark of 2:01:39. So it’s a matter of time, don’t you think, before Joshua Cheptegei makes the move up, too. 

As marathons running’s popularity has grown, so, too, has its paydays to the top practitioners. There is no reason not to think that the big distance isn’t on Cheptegei’s horizon (don’t you love triple negatives?) But the question is, when might that be? 

Serving in the role of AAA, I decided to provide a road map. So I plotted out how long the time gap was between when Tergat, Haile, Bekele, and Kipchoge ran their PBs at 10,000 meters and when they notched their marathon debuts and personal bests.  Let’s see where they might place Cheptegei in the coming years.

From 10,000m to the Marathon

PAUL TERGAT – KEN – DOB 17 June 1969
10,000m PB – 26:27.8 – Aug. 22, 1997 – Brussels – Age 28
Marathon Debut – London 2001 – 2nd in 2:08:15 – Age 31
Time Gap from 10,000 PB to Marathon Debut – 4 years
Marathon PB – 2:04:55 – Sept. 28, 2003 – Berlin – Age 34
Time Gap from 10,000 PB to Marathon PB – 6 years

Haile Gebrselassie – ETH – DOB 18 April 1973
10,000m PB – 26:22.75 – June 1,1998 – Helsinki – Age 25
Marathon Debut – London 2002 – 3rd in 2:06:35 – Age 28
Time Gap from 10,000 PB to Marathon Debut – 4 years
Marathon PB – 2:03:59 – Sept. 28, 2008 – Berlin – Age 35
Time Gap from 10,000 PB to Marathon PB – 10 years

Kenenisa Bekele – ETH – DOB 13 June 1982
10,000m PB – 26:17.53 – Aug. 26, 2005 – Brussels – Age 23
Marathon Debut – Paris 2014 – 1st in 2:05:03 – Age 29
Time Gap from 10,000 PB to Marathon Debut – 6 years
Marathon PB – 2:01:41 – Sept. 29, 2019 – Berlin – Age 37
Time Gap from 10,000 PB to Marathon PB – 14 years

Eliud Kipchoge – KEN – DOB 5 Nov. 1984
10,000m PB – 26:49.02 – May 26, 2007 – Hengelo – Age 22
Marathon Debut – Hamburg 2013 – 1st in 2:05:30 – Age 28
Time Gap from 10,000 PB to Marathon Debut – 6 years
Marathon PB – 2:01:39 – Sept. 26, 2018 – Berlin – Age 33
Time Gap from 10,000 PB to Marathon PB – 11 years

Joshua Cheptegei – UGA – DOB 12 Sept. 1996
10,000m PB – 26:11.0 – Oct. 7, 2020 – Valencia – Age 24
Time Gaps to Marathon PB & Debut:

Tergat Time: PB in 2026 – Debut in 2024
Haile Time: PB in 2030 – Debut in 2024
Eliud Time: PB in 2031 – Debut in 2026
Kenenisa Time: PB in 2034 – Debut in 2026

Looks like we have some time on our hands. My guess is it will be worth the wait.

END

6 thoughts on “CHEPTEGEI’S MARATHON FUTURE

  1. I’m very pleased that you appear to be writing in support of both the 5k & 10k records being bested. I recall you were very much more disbelieving when Ayana broke the record in Rio. – An interesting aside is that Gidey and Ayana are a very similar style Of runner, big engines and plenty of long pace without the sprint finish. Both exhibit a long striding metronomic gait throughout, – coincidence?

    1. What, specifically, leads you to that assessment? I didn’t think Mo Farah would excel in the marathon until he altered his stride pattern, which was quite long and more suited to the track. But I found Cheptegei quite efficient in that regard, suggesting he would move up in distance nicely. In any case, it will be interesting to watch him progress. Thanks for reading and responding. TR

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