Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega made his return memorable after five years when he showed class on the Mintxeta circuit for the third time at the 79th edition of the Elgoibar Juan Muguerza Cross Country championships held on Sunday (8) in Gipuzkoa, Spain.
The 22 year-old who is also the reigning World 3000m champion took the Elgoibar title in 2018 in a fascinating duel with the current World Half Marathon record holder, Jacob Kiplimo, but Barega could not retain the crown the following year as he was defeated by the World 10km record holder Rhonex Kipruto from Kenya.
The 2019 World 5000m silver medallist trounced a deep field that included the 2017 European cross-country silver medallist, Adel Mechaal, Bahrain’s Birhanu Balew who making his debut in Elgoibar and who took silver last Friday at the Campaccio-International Cross Country.
Barega took the top honors and was followed in second by Balew
The 2017 European Indoor 3000m champion, Mechaal closed the podium three finishes.
The reigning Olympic 5000m champion, Joshua Cheptegei will target to break the World 10k record at the 58th edition of the San Silvestre Vallecana 10km Road Race that will be held on Saturday (31) in Madrid, Spain.
Cheptegei who holds the World record in the 5000m and 10000m will first attempt to lower his compatriot Jacob Kiplimo’s course record of 26:39 that he set in 2018.
The 26 year-old who is also the double World 10,000m champion, will be chasing to smash the two years 10km World record of 26:24 which was set by Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto in Valencia, Spain.
The 2019 World Cross Country champion will face off with the World 1500m bronze medallist Mohammed Katir who is also the race defending champion.
Reigning Sevilla Half Marathon champion, Sebastian Kimaru Sawe took the top honors at the Iten Cross Country Meeting held on Saturday (03) at Iten Grounds, Elgeyo Marakwet County.
The 27 year-old who is also a one time Diamond League meeting winner beat a strong field that included Former African Cross Country Champion, Nicholas Kimeli and the reigning Cardiff Half Marathon champion Geoffrey Koech.
Sawe took the honors in 30:35.7 with Koech crossing the finish line in second in 30:38.7. Kimeli who is the Romanian 10K all-comers record holder, was left with no choice but to settle in third place in 30:47.5.
Newton Club runners, Dennis Kipngetich and Asbel Kiprop came home in fourth and fifth place in 30:54.4 and 31:00.4 respectively.
World 10km record holder, Rhonex Kipruto and the World U20 3000m steeplechase Champion Amos Serem finished in a disappointing tenth and twentieth place in a time of 31:20.7 and 31:39.9 respectively.
Former World Half Marathon record holder, Kibiwott Kandie beat the world 10km record holder Rhonex Kipruto at the 10km Road to Records Race that was held on Saturday (30) Herzogenaurach, Germany.
Kandie beat the defending champion in a highly contested race when he broke from the leading group of five with a one kilometer to go as he increased his pace with a lightening speed cutting the tape in a new personal best of 26:51.
The reigning World Athletics Half Marathon silver medallist was followed his compatriot, the reigning Roma Ostia Half Marathon course record holder Sebastian Sawe who crossed the line with the fastest loosing time of 26:54.
Burudi’s Rodrigue Kwizera closed the podium three finishes with a Burudi National Record with a time of 26:56
World 10,000m bronze medalist Rhonex Kipruto clinched the 10,000m title at the 10th edition of the National Police Service Track and Field Championships that were held on Thursday (14) at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
Kipruto who finished in position nine at the Tokyo Olympics and he is hoping to perform better at the World Athletics Championships and the commonwealth games which will be held in July and August this year.
The 22 year-old, hopes that the team that will be selected will work out as a team to achieve the objective of the country which is to finish on the podium. Charles Kamathi won Kenya her last gold medal over the distance at the 2001 World Championships that were held in Edmonton, Canada.
The 10km world record holder clocked 28:38.7 to take the top honors and he was followed by Joseph Kiptum who crossed the line in 29:00.6 with Edward Bett closing the podium three finishes in 29:01.2.
When Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto first came here for the UAE Healthy Kidney 10-K back in 2018, he was just 18 and had never been to the United States before.
He was warmly welcomed by the race organizers, New York Road Runners (NYRR), who made sure that he and his adidas teammate, Mathew Kimeli, were comfortable in their hotel near Central Park. Both athletes hoped to break the Central Park record of 27:35 and earn a special $30,000 bonus in addition to the first place prize of $10,000.
On his first morning in the hotel, Kipruto had a breakfast of tea (Kenyan style with milk and lots of sugar), and toast the NYRR staff had their first chance to get to know him. He talked a little bit about his family and his training, but when he was asked about his unusual name he demurred. Even when pressed he only smiled and continued to eat. Surely there was a story there, but Kipruto was not going to tell it. He finished his breakfast, and two days later smashed that Central Park record by running 27:08 (the still-standing USA all-comers record), and went home with $40,000 (after passing an in-competition drug test, of course).
A lot has changed for Kipruto since then, who has raced sparingly since the beginning of the pandemic. He won the 2018 World Athletics U20 Championships 10,000m title in 2019, earned a bronze medal at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in the 10,000m, broke the longstanding Peachtree 10-K course record by running 27:01 in 2019 (worth a $50,000 bonus), and set a new 10-K world record of 26:24 in early 2020 before the pandemic shutdown.
Yet, nobody has been able to learn anything more about his name.
“He said he would tell me, but that was six years ago,” said his agent Davor Savija over breakfast today at a midtown diner.
A Google search on the word “rhonex” returns only pages of references to Kipruto himself, except for a coincidental hit for “Rhone-X,” a medical term for diabetic macular edema, and the “Peloton x Rhone” high-performance tank top. Surely neither has any relation to Kipruto’s given name.
Kipruto, who flew into New York last night, runs Sunday’s United Airlines NYC Half on a hilly course from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Savija said his athlete is in good shape and recently completed a strong 20-kilometer time trial in Kenya to get ready for the race. He’ll be facing a quality international field which features American two-time Olympic medalist Galen Rupp, Australian Olympian Brett Robinson, and Kenyan road racing veteran Stephen Sambu who won the race in 2016.
But it is doubtful that any more information about the origin of his name will be forthcoming.
“Nobody knows,” said Savija, as he finished his toasted English muffin and crispy bacon.
The Kidane Mihret Church in the Kotobe neighbourhood in Addis Ababa is busy most afternoons. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians in the area often come to pray or give money and food to homeless who congregate around the church’s gates. Many wear gabi – a traditional white homemade cotton cloth – draped over their heads and shoulders.
Nearly every afternoon Berihu Aregawi can be seen walking, often in his orange and blue tracksuit, to his afternoon training session.
Kidane Mihret sits neatly at an important crossroads to get to the Yeka Forest in Addis Ababa, a small runner’s oasis reachable by a quick 15-minute walk from a bustling neighbourhood. Between 4-6pm dozens of Ethiopian athletes go to the forest to do their famous zig-zag jogs through eucalyptus trees, a tradition that’s well sedimented in the soil, with clearly-trodden paths.
Over the course of the past eight years, Aregawi has seldom missed one of these sessions. He made this daily journey long before he followed up a fourth-place finish at the Olympics with a Wanda Diamond League victory in Zurich in 2021. It was true leading up to his world 5km record on the final day of 2021 when he ran 12:49 in Barcelona. It was true before running his world indoor lead of 7:26.20 over 3000m in Karlsruhe. And it will continue to be true as the 20-year-old prepares for the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22, and competitions moving forward.
Many Ethiopian athletes pursue long distance running to change their lives, and as soon as they come into some money, they start making investments to accrue more wealth and status. Aregawi is in no rush to do so.
“Not yet, not yet,” he commonly refrains, when asked about buying a home, a car, or even a television. “I don’t do much outside of training besides resting, but I do like to watch training videos and running content on YouTube.”
Aregawi uses his phone and has been inspired, amid a lot of running content, by the well-known Spartan lifestyle Eliud Kipchoge has become famous for. He’s watched many of the short documentaries where understanding English is not a prerequisite for getting a sense of the humility that some of the world’s top athletes share.
He also studies racing tactics by his Ethiopian role models, Kenenisa Bekele, Haile Gebreselassie, and, notably, Hagos Gebrhiwet. Like Aregawi, Gebrhiwet is also from the Tigray region of Ethiopia – the northern most state in Ethiopia that has been embroiled in a civil war since November 2020. Aregawi grew up with five younger sisters and one younger brother in the countryside and began running in local competitions, much to the chagrin of his father, who viewed the pursuit as too risky of an endeavour. Sceptical of the athletic profession, Aregawi’s father wanted him to take a more traditional path and ensure he could help to take care of the family. But once he was offered a club position in Addis, his father’s mind gradually changed.
“When I was starting out I really wanted to be like Hagos,” Aregawi said, “He was really the first from my region and it’s easier to identify with someone that comes from the same place you come from.”
Not too long later, he became Gebrhiwet’s training partner, “Training with Hagos on the national team has given me big steps in my training. He’s also been a really good friend to me, and always offered me help when I have adversity.”
After training for two years in Addis Ababa, Aregawi was selected for his first national team in 2018, when he competed at the World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland. Aregawi finished third in the 10,000m, behind Rhonex Kipruto of Kenya and Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda.
“To represent Ethiopia for the first time and come in third was a really big deal,” he remembers of his first international trip. Finland in July could not have been more different to Ethiopia at that time of year. Ethiopia’s geographical position means the sun rises and sets at about the same time throughout the year, and July and August are characterised by heavy, sometimes torrential, rains. Mid-July in Tampere, by contrast, was sunny, temperate, and had only a few hours of darkness each day.
After his first podium finish in Tampere, Aregawi signed his first contract and returned to Ethiopia with the goal of representing the country at the Olympics. His incremental improvement has evidently been working, but until this past year, his progression has been overshadowed by some of his Olympic teammates, like Selemon Barega, who won the Olympic 10,000m title.
While many Olympians began to tire on the Wanda Diamond League circuit, Aregawi appeared to gain steam, culminating in a victory at the final 5000m held for the first time on the track built around Zurich’s city centre.
Since winning the Diamond League title, Aregawi has made some more changes relating to his training, returning to regular training with his club, Ethiopia Electric, and coach Melaku. His training partners are not big names, yet, but he’s enjoying working with Solomon Berihu and Haftam Abadi, two of several members of his club. Other changes in lifestyle can remain on the backburner.
“It’s important to stay humble and patient,” Aregawi said. “I don’t want to rush into the next stage of life because I still have big goals I haven’t accomplished.”
The changes appeared to have worked. In November, he thought he broke Joshua Cheptegei’s world 5km record when it appeared he finished under 12:50 in Lille, France, but the official results showed 12:52. One month later, on New Year’s Eve, he ran 12:49 in Barcelona to claim the record alongside Ejegayehu Taye, another Ethiopian rising distance talent.
Then, in January 2022, Aregawi claimed the world’s top indoor time over 3000m in Karlsruhe, Germany, running the second half of his race completely alone. His time of 7:26.20 puts him fifth on the world indoor all-time list and gives him the top time heading into the World Indoor Championships.
Due to the conflict in Tigray, Aregawi has had minimal conflict with his family members over the past two years. With phone and internet mostly disabled in Tigray, Aregawi has been running, and excelling, looking forward to a time when he can share his success his family.
Until then, when asked about lavish celebrations, Aregawi’s response is one of caution and gradualness. “Not yet, not yet,” he continues to say – an odd refrain beckoning for slowness from one of the world’s fastest runners.
Three-time world half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor will be on startline at the Agnes Tirop World Cross Country Tour that will be held on February 12 at the Lobo village in Kapseret, Uasin Gishu County.
Kamworor carries on his shoulders two senior world cross country titles that he won in 2015 and 2017 after the 2011 World Under 20 title.
The announcement was made during the launch of the World Athletics Cross Country Tour Gold by the event organizer Barnabas Korir who is also the Athletics Kenya Youth and Development chairman.
The meet will attract forty top notch athletes who have been to the event with many Kenyan athletes expected to join the list once they are selected after the AK National Cross Country Championships that will be held in Eldoret on January 22, 2022.
“Kenya will select up to ten athletes for the event. This will be part of the 40 athletes: 20 women and similar number for men that will take part in the competition. Expect a stiff competition since all athletes will be battling for points,” said Korir.
The guests present during the launch included Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Sports Dr. Amina Mohamed, Athletics Kenya President (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei, Uasin Gishu Governor, Jackson Mandago and Eliud Kipchoge, the world marathon record holder. Other top notch athletes included Kamworor, Faith Kipyegon, Jonathan Korir, Alice Aprot and Rhonex Kipruto.
The race category will the 10km senior men and women, 8km junior men, 6km junior women, U18 6km boys, U18 4km girls, 2km boys and 1km for children and masters race.
The winners will pocket $400,000 (Sh43m) prize money and $75,000 (Sh8m) will be set aside for the best male and female runners in the cross country tour.