For those of us still more accustomed to miles than kilometres, here’s an estimated time from Joyceline’s Jepkosgei’s quadruple world record breaking feat in the Prague half-marathon earlier this year, that might spur you on to greater efforts in training or maybe cause you give up altogether.
Remember that en route to her 64min 52sec ‘half’ in April, Jepkosgei also ran world records for 10k (30.04), 15k (45.37) and 20k (61.25). Ten days ago, the 24 year old Kenyan revised her 10k world record at the Prague Grand Prix, with 29min 43sec, the first time a woman has broken 30 minutes for the distance on the roads.
Well, after a bit of prompting from long-time BBCTV athletics researcher and IAAF statman Mark Butler, abetted by Jepkosgei’s manager Davor Savija, they tried to revisit the TV footage to determine the 10 Miles time. The original raw footage had been wiped, and unfortunately online videos did not capture her passage at 10 miles or even 16 kilometres, but while feeling that she may even have broken 49 minutes, Butler and Savija have finally estimated that the Kenyan cannot have gone through Ten Miles in anything slower than 49.05. That is almost a minute faster than the former ‘best’, again estimated, of 50.01 recorded by Paula Radcliffe in the Great North Run in 2003.
So Jepkosgei is the first sub-50 ten miler as well; and you can see why folks will be eager for her to turn her attentions to the marathon, in the hope that she may address the hitherto unchallenged 2.15.25 that Radcliffe ran in the London Marathon six months prior to that Great North Run 14 years ago.
However, as reported here last week, Jepkosgei is unlikely to turn to marathon running for at least eighteen months, and even then probably only as a pacemaker, in order to learn her trade at the distance. Of course, the idea of a multi-world record holder acting as a pace-maker may eventually fall by the roadside, so to speak, but she and her management, ie Savija, see her interim goal as the Olympic Marathon 2020 in Tokyo. And if that goes well, there’ll still be plenty of time for record breaking. Jepkosgei will only be 27 in Tokyo. And that is ten years younger than Carlos Lopes of Portugal, when he won the Olympic marathon in Los Angeles 1984; and perhaps more pertinently, eleven years younger than Constantina Dita of Romania, when she won in Beijing 2008.
Then again, the marathon is something else entirely. Given her feats have all come in Prague, where last week the local mayoress presented her with a framed portrait of the favourite Czech son, Emil Zátopek*, the latter has a famous quote which is worth recalling. There have been several versions of it, but my favourite is, “If you want to run, run a hundred metres; if you want to experience another life, run a marathon!”
It’s a cautionary tale; as is the one about the most prominent male half-marathoner in history failing to make an impact at the full marathon. I’m talking of course about Zersenay Tadesse of Eritrea. A world cross country winner and five-time world half marathon champion, Tadesse ran his world record 58.23 in Lisbon, Portugal in 2010. Yet his best attempt at the marathon yielded nothing better than 2.10.41 in London in 2012.
Nevertheless, given her world record breaking feats in the last six months we shall still be looking forward, not just to her first marathon, but to every time that Jepkosgei steps up to a starting line.