Kenya’s Agnes Ngetich has improved with every race this year, but she took things to another level in Brasov on Sunday (10) by setting a women-only world 10km record* of 29:24 at the Trunsylvania 10km, a World Athletics Elite Label road race.
The 22-year-old began 2023 with a third-place finish at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, claiming bronze behind her compatriot Beatrice Chebet and Ethiopia’s Tsigie Gebreselama.
“I started the year with the World Cross, which was perfect, so I wanted to close the season with a good result,” explained Ngetich, who achieved that aim in sensational style.
Ngetich was running with her compatriot Catherine Reline at 3km, which the pair reached in 8:32, but she soon broke away and had committed to a solo performance by 5km, passed in 14:25 – four seconds faster than the women-only world record for that distance of 14:29 set by Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi in Herzogenaurach on 12 September 2021.
It was also on that day in Herzogenaurach that the late Agnes Tirop set the previous women-only world 10km record of 30:01.
Competing on a looped course, Ngetich clocked 18:54 at 6.5km and 24:56 at 8.5km before crossing the finish line in 29:24 to make more history.
Only one woman has ever beaten Ngetich’s time in a mixed race: Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who ran 29:14 in Castellon last year and 29:19 in Valencia earlier this year.
“The world record is a surprise to me,” said Ngetich, who started the 2022 race in Brasov as the pacemaker but went on to finish second in 30:30.
“I didn’t expect to get the world record. I just wanted a PB, low 30 minutes to break the course record, but a world record is really a surprise.
Agnes Jebet Ngetich
Born: 23 January 2001
Agnes Ngetich has had a breakthrough year in 2023. The 22-year-old opened in Bathurst in February, bagging bronze on her major international debut for the Kenyan team at the World Cross Country Championships, and has set PBs at every distance she has raced since, capped by the women-only world 10km record of 29:24 she achieved in Brasov on Sunday morning.
Born on 23 January 2001, Ngetich started out in age group competition in Kenya and in 2019 the then 18-year-old won the Kenya African U20 Trials in Nairobi, clocking a hand-timed 15:56.4 for 5000m. Two years later she improved to 15:07.34 at the Kenya Olympic Games Trials before turning her attention to the roads, finishing fourth at the Adizero Road to Records event in Herzogenaurach thanks to a 15:02 5km run and then securing second place at the Villa de Laredo 10km in 31:20.
Showing signs of what might be to come, Ngetich ran as a pacemaker at the 2022 edition of the Brasov Running Festival but completed the race, finishing second in the 10km in a PB of 30:30.
Then came 2023.
Pulling on the national vest, Ngetich lined up for the senior women’s race at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst. She was well placed as the race reached the closing stages and in a dramatic end that saw pre-race favourite Letesenbet Gidey fall just metres from the finish, Ngetich came through for bronze.
“I didn’t expect I would come third because it was my first time running for the senior team and my first time running 10km,” Ngetich said at the time. “I want to say thank you to those who pray for me and to those who cheer for me.”
More cheers were to come as she matched her 5km PB with a 15:02 run in Boston in April and then took three seconds off her 10km best with 30:27 in Herzogenaurach later that month.
Her focus switched to the track, and she ran PBs for 5000m (14:36.70) and 3000m (8:32.62) in Diamond League races in Paris and Oslo, respectively.
Making her 10,000m debut at the Kenyan World Championships trials she ran 31:52.45 to finish second and qualify for her second major international team. Once at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 she improved again, to 31:34.83, to finish sixth in the final.
Looking to end her season on a high, she returned to Brasov – this time as the pre-race favourite rather than a pacemaker. Determined from the start, the clock was her only challenger by 5km, which she passed running solo in 14:25 to set her first women-only world record* of the day.
While her pace dropped slightly in the second half of the race, she still remained well on world record schedule and eventually crossed the finish line more than half a minute inside the women-only world 10km record that her compatriot Agnes Tirop set in 2021.
Agnes Ngetich’s PBs:
1500m: 4:27.0h (2017)
3000m: 8:32.62 (2023)
5000m: 14:36.70 (2023)
10,000m: 31:34.83 (2023)
One mile: 4:36.51 (2018)
5km: 15:02 (2021)
10km: 29:24 (2023)’
*Subject to the usual ratification procedure
Credit: World Athletics