The cold and windy conditions in the Big Apple just added to the drama at the 2023 United Airlines NYC Half Marathon on Sunday, March 20, 2023. Deji Ogeyingbo alerts us to the very fact that Jacob Kiplimo, one of Uganda’s two superstars, is a dominating figure over the half marathon. What will he be over a longer distance?
From precocious talent to bigwig, Jacob Kiplimo’s win at the New York Half marathon gives him an edge over his rivals this year.
We’ve all been here before. A young teenager bursting through the scenes to break all sorts of youth and junior records in athletics. Despite the obvious talent on show for many to see, there will always be a few skeptics who aren’t sure what the athlete will do when they turn up in the senior ranks. Even the great Usain Bolt struggled with his transition for about three years before the lit up the world at the Beijing Olympics.
But there are some that have it seamless, regardless of the opposition in front of them. Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo is one such athlete. Right from when he burst into the limelight as a burgeoning 16-year-old boy, the talented runner has grown in leaps and bounds. While he was slowly developing, his country already had a distance running star in Joshua Cheptegei. They didn’t need to put much pressure on Kiplimo.
However, with the latest results in a range of long-distance races, there is an indication that a changing of the guard might be going on. After both athletes met for the first time over the half marathon in 2020, New York city hosted them for another thrilling match-up. And it didn’t disappoint.
Kiplimo is the current world record holder in the half marathon with a time of 57.31s, while Cheptegei is the reigning world record holder in the 5000m and 10000m as well as the 15km on the road. He’s also a two-time Olympic Gold medallist. Simply put, Kiplimo was coming up against a huge force even though he know he was the better athlete over the half marathon.
As expected on race day, the temperatures weren’t optimal for running as it was frosty and windy, plus, with the absence of pacers, any world record attempt by both runners was quickly thrown out of the window. Still, onlookers hoped for a very tactical race between both runners.
Perhaps, the first five kilometers indicated what to expect, as neither Kiplimo nor Cheptegei was not among the leading pack. Surprisingly, Britain’s Chris Thompson romped to the front achieving a time of 15mins, with Kiplimo not far away with 15.14. At that point, it was certain that even Kiplimo would not break the world record here.
After the first 15km, one would have expected that Cheptegei would begin to exert his prowess on the field, but Morocco’s Zouhair Talbi led at that stage with 44:33, 0.03 seconds ahead of Kiplimo who was a nudge in front of Cheptegei. However, it was from there Kiplimo before to take control of the race.
And with less than 2km to go, Kiplimo brought to the fore his incredible strength and powerful stride, drifting away from an already jaded Cheptegei to win in 61.31s. The race encapsulated his strength as a runner and how much he still has to grow. The scary thing is there is still a lot more in the tank, and his opponents should be worried about how much higher his ceiling is in the long distance.
After this race, it is pretty obvious that Kiplimo has moved ahead of Cheptegei in Road running. The Olympic Games Bronze medallist is ranked number one in the world in this aspect of running. To add to his two wins over his countryman in the Half marathon, he also beat Kenenisa Bekele when he won the Great North Run in September.
Exactly a month ago, Kiplimo had stripped Cheptegei of one of his titles- the world cross-country crown. It might not be so converted by him compared to Olympic Gold, but it signaled the handing of the baton down to his compatriot. Four years ago in Aarhus, it was Cheptegei that called the shots as he romped to victory, with the then-lanky Kiplimo settling for second.
And when Kiplimo was given the opportunity to exact revenge on Cheptegei in Bathurst this year, he took it with full hands. Kiplimo, who has mountain running experience, showed his brilliance throughout the race, conquering an incredibly strong field and defying the stormy conditions, too then winning convincingly in 29.17.
It might be a tad early to compare him to the great Bekele, but his progression in this shot span has never been done before. Kiplimo has been untouchable in the half marathon, running under 59s multiple times in a dominant fashion. And now, with yet another big win, there is a strong indication another world record could fall this year.
He hasn’t really cracked the track yet, but these wins in the cross country and half marathon will certainly serve as a springboard heading into the outdoor season.
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