October 6th, 2019
The men’s 10,000 meter run was one of many finals on the 10th and final day of the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships. With the men’s marathon having been held the night before – at midnight, no less – there was no chance for the often-attempted marathon/10,000m double. This 10,000 meter final would be more pure, consisting mainly of 10K specialists and only two athletes doubling back from the 5000 meter races held earlier in this gathering.
Because global 10,000 meter finals are almost always tactical affairs, world-leading clockings are of limited assistance in attempting to project world championship performances. Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet is #1 on the world leader board with a 26:48.78 clocking he notched in winning the loaded Hengelo race earlier this year by beating a number of athletes who will competing in this 25-lap final. The 22-year-old Yomif Kejelcha, #3 on the WL list at 26:49.99, is an incredible young talent who could well be a factor in this final. Rodrigue Kwizera [#4 on the WL], Ethiopian Andamiak Belihu [#5 on the WL], and Switzerland’s Julien Wanders [#10 on the WL] all could contest for the medals. Leonard Korir and Lopez Lomong, the two Americans, lack the flashy impressive sub-27 minute clockings, but could become quite influential in a tactically-paced race.
As the final unfolded, 20 athletes were bunched behind early leader Uganda’s Abdallah Mande who paced the field through the first two kilometers in 5:27. By 3K [8:08], Kenyan Ronex Kipruto led the closely-packed field with Gebrhiwet in 2nd and Ethiopia’s Belihu in 3rd. Kipruto continued to dictate the tempo with kilometer splits in the low 2:40’s until Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei took over the lead just before 6K [reached in 16:16]. The Ugandan’s pacing was short-lived as his Kenyan rival recaptured the front position, picked up the pace, and led a pack of 8 [including Cheptegei, Kenya’s Rodgers Kwemoi, USA’s Lopez Lomong, Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed, Gebrhiwet, Belihu, and Kejelcha] through a 7th kilo in 2:40 [18:56] – the fastest of the race. Kipruto continued pacing the lead pack, now dwindled to 6, until Cheptegei took over just before 9 kilometers reached in 24:20 [2:40]. With the real racing now underway, Kipruto struggled to stay with the two leaders – Cheptegei and Kejelcha – as the trio entered the bell lap. The lead duo battled side-by-side as they raced down the backstretch, with the Ugandan clinging on to a slight advantage as they rounded the final curve for the homestretch showdown. A look back by Kejelcha with 80 meters remaining was the telltale signal that the Ethiopian was letting go as Cheptegei sailed on for the victory, crossing the line in 26:48.36, the 2nd fastest winning time in world championship history. Kejelcha crossed 2nd in a personal best clocking of 26:49.34 while pacing workhorse Kipruto [26:50.32] captured the bronze.
At the post-race press conference, Kejelcha outlined the last lap fight for the gold medal. “I think I had the right plan. Cheptegei is a very strong man and I tried to run with him. It was my pleasure to run with him. I wanted to win a medal at my first 10,000m final and I did everything to be competitive. I did not go too early it was the right time, but Joshua was faster. I was trying to hold him off, but it is not easy because he is a very strong athlete and has a strong sprint. So I had to be strong on the last lap. It is never over till you reach the finish line.”
For the new champion, the victory was especially sweet. Two years ago at London’s world championships, Cheptegei captured the silver medal in the men’s 10,000 meter final, just 0.45 seconds behind by the legendary Mo Farah, a multiple-time Olympic and world champion. “At the last edition of the World Championships in London I learned a lot of things from all the other athletes. I came to these championships with two plans. Plan A, and if that wasn’t going to work, I had plan B and plan C,” explained the reigning world cross country champion. “This was plan A. So it was really successful for me.” The Ugandan world champion shared his pathway leading up to these championships. “My season has been great. Since I started the season it has gone well for me. I spoke to my coach and he supported me with advice and made me believe in myself. And then there have been a lot of achievements from the world cross country when I was maybe 50 per cent fit, and then the track season, of course. I didn’t run in the Diamond League for the whole of 2018 after an injury, although I had the Commonwealth Games. It was only after this year’s Diamond League final that I thought I could win the World Championships. And here I am today. It really was a fantastic achievement.”
As for the Americans, Lopez Lomong was up front in the later stages of the race but he was unable to summon the close over the final kilometer that would thrust him into the mix for a medal. He would finish 7th
in a personal best of 27:04.72. Lomong’s teammate Leonard Korir, finished 13th
Dave Hunter is an award-winning journalist who is a U.S. Correspondent for Track & Field News. He also writes a weekly column and serves as Senior Writer for www.RunBlogRun.com, and covers championship track & field competition domestically and in such global capitals as Moscow, Birmingham, Zurich, Brussels, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, Zagreb, and Ostrava. Hunter frequently serves as the arena or stadium announcer for championship track & field gatherings, including the Ivy League, the Big East, the Mid-American Conference, the NAIA, the Big Ten, and the Millrose Games. Hunter has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments.. He ran his marathon P.R. of 2:31:40 on the Boston Marathon course back in the Paleozoic Era. To find out more about Dave, visit his website: www.trackandfieldhunter.com He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org