Dubai: No one was more surprised that Beatrice Chepkoech than the athlete herself after the Kenyan’s world record in the women’s 5km, in Monaco, last Sunday.
The 29-year-old Kenyan ran a sensational time of 14.43 minutes to break the world 5km record at the Monaco Run on Sunday to better the previous record in a mixed gender race of 14:48 set by Caroline Kipkirui in 2018.
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Her effort is also one second faster than Sifan Hassan’s 14:44 record for a women’s-only race, and so far the fastest time ever produced over the distance since the 5km was introduced as a world record event in November 2017.
Chepkoech battled strong winds during the early stages of the race along the Monaco coastline, but fought on over the latter stages to claim a second world record, this one joining her 8:44.32 record in the 3,000m steeplechase set in 2018, also in Monaco.
“I’m so happy because I didn’t expect it,” the 2019 world champion in the steeplechase told Gulf News on a Zoom call. “It was cold and there was a lot of wind, but I tried to follow my pace-maker and everything was perfect and as per plans. I have been in Europe for the past two weeks, so I wasn’t even expecting to run so fast. Further, it was cold and there was a lot of wind, but I tried to follow my pace-maker and everything turned out perfect.”
Chepkoech began her career in road running, taking top-three placings in 2014 at several low-level races in Germany and the Netherlands.
She switched to track running in 2015 and set a 1,500m best of 4:03.28 to win at the KBC Night of Athletics. This time placed her just outside the top 20 athletes for the season in which she was the fifth fastest Kenyan. A bronze medal in the event followed at the African Games the same year.
Before her barrier-shattering 8:44.32 run in the 3,000m steeplechase at the 2018 Diamond League meeting in Monaco, Chepkoech was best known for her blunder in the steeplechase final at the 2017 World Championships. She missed the first water jump and carried on running alone around the bend before realising her mistake, doubling back and then having to play catch-up. Having lost the best part of eight seconds on the rest of the field, it effectively ended her medal chances. And while the video of her error went viral on the internet, it was little consolation for another fourth-place finish in a global championship.
Chepkoech started out fast and managed to keep the speed despite less-than-ideal conditions. After running 2:59 for the second kilometre and 3:01 for the third, Chepkoech and her Dutch pace-maker Luuk Maas decided to accelerate once the winds became more manageable.
“My pacemaker told me ‘we can do it, let’s push it’, and that is how we just propping each other to the finish line,” Chepkoech said.
Behind Chepkoech, Meraf Bahta finished second in 15:46, and Alice Finot closed for third in 15:52. Her stunning 8:44.32 run in Monaco took 15 seconds off the personal best she had set in Paris just three weeks prior. It also made Chepkoech the first Kenyan woman to hold the world record in the 3,000m steeplechase, an event that has been dominated by her male compatriots for decades.