As Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya pumped her fists in the air, ripping apart the finishing line tape, the faithful fans of Prague erupted, cheering on a new World Record. As Jocyline was readily embraced by the mayor of the City of a Hundred Spires, seemingly unaware of her historic feat, it started to sink in to the rest of the world the magnitude of her victory.
Running in the Birell Prague Grand Prix 10k, not only had Jepkosgei crushed her previous unofficial record from April of this year (also in Prague), but she demolished the official record, set by British road racing legend Paula Radcliffe in 2003. Jepkosgei's new 38-second world best now becomes evidence of the first woman to break the 30-minute mark on the road. Furthermore, she completed the run mostly by herself, with the help of a singular pacer.
Yet, amid all of this adversity, she still managed to unleash a first 5k kilometer split of 14:33, a new WR in its own right when ratified. This 21-second record in the 5k was only the second time she smashed a record on her way to a win in a longer race.
In this year's Prague Half Marathon, Jepkosgei made her name known, challenging the past champion and her compatriot Violah Jepchumba. She ended up running 64:52 to win by a stunning 30 seconds. Her time meant she set a stunning new world record by 14 seconds, throwing herself into the record books while becoming the first woman to break 35 minutes.
What shocked the running community even further was the way in which she set her record. Much like her performance in Prague tonight, Jepkosgei set off at a torrential pace, curtailing the field with ease and keeping the pressure on throughout. Ultimately, she ended up setting an unprecedented four world records in the race, including the 10k, 15k and 20k.
In Prague tonight, she tore off at a very similar pace, dispelling of all competitors early on, including eventual third place finisher and second fastest of all time in the 10k, Violah Jepchumba. Able to clinch the win after staying strong throughout with the help of a pacemaker, this also meant she won the second to final events in the IAAF Gold Label Road Race, of which seven races (the most) are in the Czech Republic. The race ended up being fast all around, with second place finisher Fancy Chemutai clocking a time just 2 seconds outside the old world record of 30:04.
While Jepkosgei was unwilling to make clear her intentions for the race prior to its onset, she later reaffirmed her confidence to the media, detailing her intense training and her subsequent results. “Very happy and I thank god for making me the winner of the day and making me the new world record holder. I had training and so was very confident,” Jepkosgei told the media in her second language, English.
As the 2017 track season ends, and the road racing circuit winds down, Jepkosgei should rest knowing she has dominated the year in all regards, setting five world records in only two races, and breaking both the 65 and 30-minute barriers. While many questioned her ability to repeat her performance from Prague five months prior, she solidified her name as the new road talent. As 2018 beckons, only time will tell where the new Kenyan Queen of the Road will race to next, and at what expense of the record books.
Men's Race: Kimeli's do battle
However, the Prague Grand Prix was not just home to the women's professional race, as it hosted more than 900 total runners, including the men's professional race. While largely overshadowed by the dominance of Jepkosgei on the women's side, the men in Prague laid down a course record in their own regard, as the two, nonrelated Kimeli's (Bernard and Mathew), did battle with fellow Kenyan, Rhonex Kipruto.
Breaking away early from the rest of the field, the three Kenyans set a fast pace of their own, without the help of the pacemakers Jepkosgei was accustomed to. Their breakaway surprised many, as they left behind defending champ Abraham Kipyatich and 20-year-old Jemal Yimer Mekkonen, 4th at this year's 10k World Cross Country Championships.
Ultimately, however, it came down to a sprint over the last kilometer, dictated by both Bernard and Mathew. In the end, it was Bernard who crossed the line first, edging out Mathew by just a second and reaffirming himself as the best of the year. Bernard is the holder of the fastest time in 2017, and finished his year fittingly, back on top.
While Sunday's Fith Avenue mile may overshadow the performances on tap in Prague, both champions will know that they achieved their goals, going out on top and in style.