Adding another strong run to her CV, Yalemzerf Yehualaw clocked 1:04:22 to retain her crown at the Antrim Coast Half Marathon, a World Athletics Elite Label Road Race, in Larne, Northern Ireland, on Sunday (28).
Her Ethiopian compatriot Jemal Yimer also became a back-to-back winner at the event, the national record-holder running 59:04 as both athletes set UK all-comers’ records.
For Yehualaw, who ran a 1:03:51 half marathon PB in Valencia last October, her performance is the equal fifth-fastest ever women’s half marathon achieved on a record-eligible course. The 23-year-old appeared to have broken the women’s world record with her 1:03:44 run in Larne last year, but the course was later found to have been 54 metres short. That world record has since been taken to a remarkable 1:02:52 by Letesenbet Gidey, who achieved the feat in Valencia last October, and Yehualaw was on pace to challenge that mark in the early stages of Sunday’s race in Larne. On a fast opening section of the course, she was paced through 5km in 14:44, with Gidey having recorded 15:00 for that split in Valencia 10 months ago.
Although that pace couldn’t be maintained, Yehualaw – who set a world 10km record of 29:14 in Castellon in February – still passed the 10km mark in 29:52, running behind pacemaker Roy Hoornweg and alongside Britain’s Callum Hawkins, the two-time world marathon fourth-place finisher who is making a comeback after injury.
Hoornweg stepped aside when the group reached 13km in around 39:10 and there started Yehualaw’s solo run to the finish line, with Hawkins striding ahead. Yehualaw, who ran the fastest ever women’s marathon debut with 2:17:23 in Hamburg in April, went on to pass the 15km mark in 45:27 and reached the finish in 1:04:22. Only she, Gidey, Ruth Chepngetich and Girmawit Gebrzihair have ever gone faster for the distance.
Moving to 12th on the world all-time list was Yehualaw’s compatriot Tsehay Gemechu, who passed 10km in 30:33 and went on to finish in a PB of 1:05:01 for the runner-up spot. Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkemoi Mutai was third in 1:07:37 and Ireland’s Fionnuala Ross fourth in 1:14:00.
“I am so happy to win this race,” Yehualaw said on the live BBC stream. “I was thinking of the world record. The first 10km was fast, the last 5km was slower. I will try it next time. I hope I will be back, I like this race.”
In the men’s race, Yimer was part of a lead group that passed 5km in 14:10 and he broke away a couple of kilometres later to lead by nine seconds at the 10km mark. He clocked 28:16 at that point, ahead of Kenya’s Alfred Ngeno and Shadrack Kimining, plus Ethiopia’s Tesfahun Akalnew.
Yimer had increased his lead to more than a minute by 15km, which he passed in 42:13, and he continued untroubled to reach the finish line in 59:04.
Ngeno held on for second in 1:01:00, while Kimining was third in 1:01:08 and Akalnew fourth in 1:01:44. Britain’s Marc Scott finished fifth in 1:02:58.
1 Yalemzerf Yehualaw (ETH) 1:04:22
2 Tsehay Gemechu (ETH) 1:05:01
3 Beatrice Chepkemoi Mutai (KEN) 1:07:37
4 Fionnuala Ross (IRL) 1:14:00
5 Kate Drew (GBR) 1:14:30
1 Jemal Yimer (ETH) 59:04
2 Alfred Ngeno (KEN) 1:01:00
3 Shadrack Kimining (KEN) 1:01:08
4 Tesfahun Akalnew (ETH) 1:01:44
5 Marc Scott (GBR) 1:02:58
Credit: World Athletics