How do you speak about one of the finest athletes in the world? And, he is only 20! The WC bronze medalist at 10,000m in Doha, has set the first WR of the year, a fine road 10k in Valencia, Spain. The adidas sponsored athlete is shown above in his huge Peachtree win.
How good is Rhonex Kipruto? In this writers’ mind, watching the smooth flow of Kipruto around the track, one is awed by the power and speed of this young and talented Kenyan.
Less than two weeks into 2020, the first world record of the year has been set.
Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto smashed the world record at the 10k Valencia Ibercaja on Sunday (12), clocking 26:24* to win the World Athletics Gold Label road race. His half-way split of 13:18* was also an improvement on the 5km world record
Despite running on his own for the entire second half, Kipruto increased his pace and clocked 2:37 for the sixth kilometre. After a slightly slower seventh kilometre of 2:40, the world U20 10,000m champion ramped up his speed again for the eighth kilometre, which he covered in 2:36.
Having passed 8km in 20:11, it became clear that Kipruto was on course to improve Joshua Cheptegei’s yet-to-be ratified world record of 26:38, set just six weeks ago in the same city, albeit on a different course.
Closing kilometres of 2:38 and 2:35 secured the world record for the 20-year-old Kenyan, who covered the two halves in 13:18 and an impressive 13:06. Only the legendary Ethiopian duo Kenenisa Bekele (26:17.53) and Haile Gebrselassie (26:22.75) have recorded faster times on the track, while Paul Tergat holds the Kenyan 10,000m record at 26:27:85.
“I’m over the moon,” said an ecstatic Kipruto, who is coached by Colm O’Connell. “When I clocked 26:46 in Prague in 2018, I set myself the target of breaking the world 10km record and today my dream came true. I’m very thankful to the organisers for relying on me to set the record and to the city and the people of Valencia for treating me so well and for their support throughout the race.”
* Subject to the usual ratification procedure
Born: 12 October 1999. Coach: Colm O’Connell.
Few distance runners focus so much on the roads in the early stages of their career. But Rhonex Kipruto isn’t just any distance runner.
The Kenyan was still pretty much an unknown when he lined up for the Rift Cross Country Championships in Mosoriot in February 2017, but he placed third in the U20 race, finishing just 11 seconds behind world U18 3000m champion Richard Yator.
He missed out on a team spot for that year’s World Cross Country Championships but he soon turned his attention to the track and clocked 28:56.5 on his 10,000m debut, putting together a string of domestic victories.
It was on the roads, though, where he made his first big impact. The 2017 Birell Grand Prix, a 10km road race in Prague, was Kipruto’s first overseas race and he finished just three seconds behind the winner in 27:13. His time would have been the fastest ever 10km run by an U20 athlete were it not for the fact that his training partner Mathew Kimeli, also U20 at the time, finished just two seconds in front.
Kipruto didn’t mind, though. He had found a surface he loved racing on and was fast becoming aware of his ability.
His 2018 season started with a brief cross-country campaign, during which he won the African U20 cross-country title in Chlef, finishing comfortably ahead of compatriot Stanley Mburu Waithaka.
Six weeks later, he gained further attention overseas when winning the UAE Healthy Kidney 10-K in New York. His time, 27:08, was the fastest ever by an U20 athlete, a North American all-comers’ record, and moved him to fifth on the senior world all-time list.
Kipruto took a brief break from the roads during the middle of the year to concentrate on the track. He did more than enough to book his spot on the Kenyan team for the World U20 Championships Tampere 2018, winning the national trial race by nearly 30 seconds in 27:49.6 at altitude.
He knew the race in Tampere wouldn’t be quite so easy, though, as he was up against world U20 cross-country champion Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda. And indeed it was close – for the first six kilometres. After then, Kiplimo took off and could not be caught, eventually winning in a championship record of 27:21.08.
The 18-year-old closed with a 13:23.86 second half, a performance that would have powered him to victory in all but four of the 16 previous 5000m title races contested at the World U20 Championships.
He wasn’t done for the year, though. Two months later, Kipruto returned to the scene of his first international race, clocking 26:46 in Prague for the second-fastest 10km performance of all time on a record-eligible course. His time was an agonising two seconds outside Leonard Patrick Komon’s world record.
In 2019, his first year as a senior athlete, Kipruto started with a brief cross-country campaign and placed sixth in the senior race at the World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus. He then shifted his focus to the track and smashed his 10,000m PB at the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm, clocking 26:50.16.
His streak of 10,000m victories came to an end at the Kenyan Championships in Nairobi, where he finished a close second to multiple world cross-country and half-marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor.
Kipruto, still aged 19, made his senior World Championships debut in Doha in October. In a thrilling 10,000m race against Joshua Cheptegei and Yomif Kejelcha, Kipruto came away with the bronze medal in 26:50.32, just a fraction outside the PB he had set earlier that year.
His world 10km record today in Valencia is the best possible start to his Olympic season. But while he has lofty goals for Tokyo, Kipruto likes to look at the bigger picture.
“I know it is the Olympic year in Tokyo,” he says, “but the main thing should be discipline and hard work, which will guide me to be what I want – to live like Eliud Kipchoge.”
3000m: 7:48.08 Cambridge 2018
5000m: 13:07.40 London 2019
10,000m: 26:50.16 Stockholm 2019
2000m steeplechase: 5:44.8 Nairobi 2015
10km: 26:24 Valencia 2020
15km: 41:53 Le Puy-en-Velay 2019
10km world record progression
Over the course of 40 years, the men’s world 10km record has improved by 96 seconds.
28:00 Matthews Motswarateu (RSA) Purchase 1980
27:43 Zakariah Barie (TAN) Phoenix 1984
27:41 Arturo Barrios (MEX) Phoenix 1986
27:40 Addis Abebe (ETH) Jakarta 1993
27:37 Tendai Chimusasa (ZIM) Wurzburg 1993
27:34 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) / William Sigei (KEN) Dongio 1994
27:20 Joseph Kimani (KEN) Cleveland 1996
27:18 Sammy Kipketer (KEN) Brunssum 2001
27:02 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Doha 2002
27:01 Micah Kogo (KEN) Brunssum 2009
26:44 Leonard Patrick Komon (KEN) Utrecht 2010
26:38 Joshua Cheptegei (UGA) Valencia 2019
26:24 Rhonex Kipruto (KEN) Valencia 2020
Note: road events became eligible for world record status from 2004.
World all-time top 10 at 10km
26:24 Rhonex Kipruto (KEN) Valencia 12 Jan 2020
26:38 Joshua Cheptegei (UGA) Valencia 1 Dec 2019
26:44 Leonard Patrick Komon (KEN) Utrecht 26 Sep 2010
27:01 Micah Kogo (KEN) Brunssum 29 Mar 2009
27:02 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Doha 13 Dec 2002
27:02 Geoffrey Koech (KEN) Prague 7 Sep 2019
27:04 Josphat Kiprono Menjo (KEN) Barcelona 18 Apr 2010
27:07 Mathew Kimeli (KEN) Prague 7 Sep 2019
27:09 Peter Kamais (KEN) Tilburg 6 Sep 2009
27:10 Benard Kimeli (KEN) Prague 9 Sep 2017