Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei set a new course record in the women’s half marathon, at the 2019 Great North Run in UK. She covered the distance in one hour, four minutes and 28 seconds (1:04:28), shattering the previous record held by Mary Keitany (1:05:39 / also of Kenya) by more than a minute. The men’s half marathon at the event was marked by Britain’s Mo Farah winning his sixth consecutive title; he finished in 59 minutes, six seconds (59:06).
Kosgei’s course record is better than the existing world record – 1:04:51 – set by Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei at the Valencia Half Marathon in October 2017. However owing to technical reasons, the new mark may not qualify to be a world record. The problem lay in the Great North Run’s course. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) noted in its weekend round-up of road races, “ as a point-to-point course and slightly downhill, it’s not valid for record purposes, but that shouldn’t take away from the performance by the 25-year-old Kenyan who dominated the race from the outset.’’
According to it, IAAF regulations (for the performance to be ratified as a world record) require that the start and finish points on the course, measured along a theoretical straight line between them, should not be further apart than 50 per cent of the race distance. It is also required that the overall decrease in elevation between start and finish should not exceed an average of one meter per kilometer. “ The Great North Run is contested on a point-to-point course with elevation loss of 30.5m and a start / finish separation of more than 75 per cent,’’ the statement pointed out.
As per published media reports, Kenya swept the top four positions in the women’s half marathon at the 2019 Great North Run. Magdalyne Masai finished second, Linet Masai placed third and Mary Keitany, fourth. In the men’s race, Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola finished second while Abdi Nageeye of Netherlands placed third. Britain’s Callum Hawkins was fourth.
Prior to 2019 Great North Run, Kosgei was known best for her finishes at the Chicago and London marathons. She placed second among women in the 2017 Chicago Marathon, second in the 2018 London Marathon, first in the 2018 Chicago Marathon and first in the 2019 London Marathon. Going by information available on Wikipedia, Kosgei has finished in top two at eight of the nine marathons that she has run in her career.
The Great North Run is the largest half marathon in the world. It takes place every September in North East England. It was first staged in 1981. As of 2019, Kenyan men had been won the race 14 times; Kenyan women – 12 times.
(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)