ATHLETICS: Kenya’s Chepngetich breaks away at 35 km, wins women’s Worlds marathon in 88-degree heat

Kenya's Ruth Chepngetich after her world-leading 2:17:08 win in Dubai in January

The much-feared hot conditions for the women’s marathon at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha (QAT) were very much in evidence, with the race starting at midnight with temperatures right at 90 degrees (F) and not moving much during the race.

A field of 68 started the event and the drop-out began about 10 km into the event, even with a very clever loop course arranged that allow constant monitoring of all of the runners and close-by aid stations.

The field ran together for about 10 km, but then pre-race favorite Ruth Chepngetich (KEN) broke up the race and created a small lead pack of five runners that included two-time champ Edna Kipklagat (KEN, now 37), Visiline Jepkesho (KEN), defending champ Rose Chelimo (BRN) and Namibia’s Helalia Johannes.

Jepkesho was dropped by 25 km and the race continued with the top four together through 35 km. The heat and humidity continued unabated and after two hours of running – about 32 km for the leaders – the temperature was 89 F with 76% humidity.

But then Chepngetich put down the hammer past the 35 km point and just ran away, with Chelimo able to stay in loose contact, but Kiplagat and Johannes left to fight for the bronze medal.

By 40 km, Chepngetich had a 30-second lead over Chelimo, with Johannes 22 seconds up on Kiplagat for the bronze. She finished in 2:32:43, the slowest-ever Worlds winning time, but an impressive performance in difficult conditions, with the thermometer reading 88 degrees F.

The 1:03 margin of victory was the most since 2005, when Paula Radcliffe (GBR) won by 1:04 over Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba.

Chepngetich, 25, is only in her third year of marathoning, improving from 2:22:36 in her debut in 2017 to 2:18:35 last year and 2:17:08 – moving her to no. 3 all-time – in winning in Dubai in January of 2019. In her five career marathons, she’s won four and finished second once.

Of note was 41-year-old sixth-place finisher Roberta Groner of the U.S. – a registered nurse! – in 2:38:44. Carrie Dimoff of the U.S. was 13th in 2:44:35; both were impressive performances in oppressive conditions.

The race was just as brutal as advertised, as at least 27 runners failed to finish (of 68). Summaries:

IAAF World Championships
Doha (QAT) ~ 27 September-6 October 2019
(Full results here)


Marathon: 1. Ruth Chepngetich (KEN), 2:32:43; 2. Rose Chelimo (BRN), 2:33:46; 3. Helelia Johannes (NAM), 2:34:15; 4. Edna Kiplagat (KEN), 2:35:36; 5. Volha Mazuronak (BLR), 2:36:21; 6. Roberta Groner (USA), 2:38:44; 7. Mizuki Tanimoto (JPN), 2:39:09; 8. Ji Hyang Kim (PRK), 2:41:24. Also: 13. Carrie Dimoff (USA), 2:44:35.