BENGALURU: Kenya’s Nicholas Kipkorir Kimeli and Irene Cheptai ran course records of 27:38 and 30:35 respectively at the 14th edition of the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) World 10K Bengaluru 2022 – a World Athletics Elite Label Race – on Sunday, 15th May.
Kipkorir Kimeli, fourth in the Olympic Games 5000m last summer, took the lead with a kilometre to go and pulled away from Ethiopia’s reigning world U20 10,000m champion Tadese Worku to reduce the men’s course record by six seconds from the previous mark set by his compatriot Geoffrey Kamworor in 2014.
The race started off in an unusual manner with Kenya’s Reynold Kipkorir – who was to eventually finish ninth – out on his own for much of the first 5km, passing the halfway point in 14:00 with the rest of the elite field staying around 70 metres in arrears.
However, shortly after going through 5km, Worku changed gear and started to rapidly tow the leading men back to Kipkorir before going past him just before the 6km point and then increasing the pace further.
Kipkorir Kimeli continued running just behind Worku for the next three kilometres, letting his Ethiopian rival do all the hard work as the pair gradually got back onto course record pace as they also put daylight between themselves and the rest of the men’s field.
Worku still looked fresh as they reached the final kilometre but could not respond when Kipkorir Kimeli took the lead, with the latter almost sprinting like a middle-distance runner over the final 300 metres as the finish line approached in Bengaluru’s Sree Kanteerava Stadium.
Kipkorir Kimeli crossed the line in 27:38 with Worku also inside the old record with 27:43 while the Kenyan pre-race favourite, and former world half marathon record holder, Kibiwott Kandie made up three places in the final two kilometres and came through for third in 27:57.
By contrast, Ethiopia’s two-time reigning world champion 5000m Muktar Edris was never in contention for the podium and finished back in seventh.
“Honestly, I was not expecting to get the course record. When we reached 5K, we didn’t think we will get the course record, in fact, even when we crossed the 7K-mark, I didn’t think we will make the record. But only when Worku pushed ahead, I picked up pace towards the end,” reflected Kipkorir Kimeli.
The women’s race unfolded in a very different fashion to the men’s and Irene Cheptai took an even bigger slice out of the women’s course record which had stood to the late Agnes Tirop at 31:19 since 2018.
After a super-fast opening two kilometres of 3:02 and 3:04, a quick time was always likely and the race was soon down to just three women at the front: Cheptai, Obiri and fellow Kenyan Joyce Tele.
Tele started to lose contact with her compatriots in the fifth kilometre before Obriri, pushing the pace with Cheptai running in her slipstream, passed the halfway point in 15:15.
Obiri led the race for the next two kilometres, going through 6km in 18:23 and 7km in 21:32, before Cheptai took her turn to push at the front for a kilometre as Obiri briefly went through a bad patch.
However, Obiri soon recovered her poise and regained the lead just after embarking on the penultimate kilometre.
The Kenyan pair carried on their enthralling head-to-head battle but with just 250 metres to go, Cheptai darted past Obiri and was never headed before crossing the line in a personal best of 30:35, her first time inside 31 minutes.
Obiri eased off once she knew the race was lost but still came home in an outstanding 30:44, also inside Tirop’s former course record, while Tele was a distant third in 31:47 to complete an all-Kenyan podium.
“When we raced through an inclined patch on the route [just after 7km], I felt like Hellen’s pace reduced, that’s when I tried harder to take lead. But even when I entered the stadium for the final lap, I was fearing Hellen and kept pushing my speed to win,” commented Cheptai.
Kipkorir Kimeli and Cheptai both took home first place cheques of $26,000 for their victories and course record bonuses of $8000.
Parul Chaudhary, Abhishek Pal crowned new Indian champions
On a day where the Bengaluru skies displayed its varying moods, two new champions in Parul Chaudhary and Abhishek Pal were crowned champions in the Indian men’s and women’s field respectively at the TCS World 10K Bengaluru 2022 on Sunday.
It was an easy win for Parul who hardly strayed away from the lead role in the pack, but Sanjivani, the 2019 champion who was looking to defend her title, was keeping pace with her until the pack entered the Kanteerava stadium for the final stretch. “The route was a little hilly,” said Parul of the course where she has featured for the second time. “But it was good because we practice for this. I’m happy with the test I did for speed.” A final burst from Parul allowed her to finish at the top and set a personal best in 10K road running at 34:38. Sanjivani finished 6 seconds behind at 34:44.
The surprise of the day was for Komal Jagadale who also managed to break away from the pack in the last 350m of the race and finish at 35:28. For Komal, a steeplechaser, it was an incredible debut 10K race where she finished ahead of her seniors, something which she herself was amazed by. “I didn’t think I would place on the podium. I didn’t care much about chasing the international athletes because I was busy competing against the Indian field itself.”
The rain-affected the race conditions for all three podium finishers, but to varying degrees. While Sanjivani waxed eloquent about the Bengaluru course being her favourite and Parul was only a little disturbed by the puddles, Komal’s view was interesting. “The rain didn’t affect me much because I dealt with it like a steeplechaser,” she recounted with a laugh, summing up the mood of the Indian women’s podium.
The men’s field featured a podium that finished with 1 second of each other with Abhishek Pal taking the top spot at 30:05 while both Kartik Kumar and Gulveer Singh finished at 30:06. For both Kartik and Gulveer, it was their first time racing a 10K on road and both runners, who train together at a camp in Ooty, were pleased with their performance. Kartik, in particular, led a rather jovial mood at the post-race press conference while recollecting his race. “It was a little tough in some places [with the puddles on the road from the rain]. There may have been a mistake in the middle, but I didn’t want to overtake the seniors too much,” said Kartik jokingly. “It feels nice with everybody gets a medal.”
Gulveer also joined in the cheery atmosphere as he outlined his preparation for the race. “We all train together so the strategy was to follow the two in front.” While Gulveer, a 10K road race novice, has yet to qualify for the Asian Games, both Abhishek and Kartik have secured qualification in the 5k event. “I’m happy that I won here this time. It’s my third time here at TCS World 10K – I placed 4th in 2017 but couldn’t finish in 2019 because of a knee injury.”
The hot and humid conditions that emerged after consistent showers through the night before the race did little to dispel the spirits of the amateur athletes running in the Open 10K that kicked off at 5:30am on Sunday and the categories that followed – Senior Citizens’ Run, Champions with Disabilities and Majja Run – all categories where participants ran for a cause close to their heart.
Over 12,000 people crossed the finish line in the Open 10K category while over 4,800 people were part of the Majja Run, apart the Senior Citizen Run and Champions With Disability categories where participants were encouraged to turn out in unique costumes and run together as a group supporting their desired organisation.
The International Event Ambassador for TCS World 10K 2022, former American sprinter and 4-time Olympic champion Justin Gatlin was swept up in the fervour created in the Kanteerava stadium with the return of the much-anticipated event. “It’s a festival, [one] doesn’t feel the need to compete at a certain level.” The American even hinted at a possible marathon debut as part of his post-retirement plans. “It’s the discipline of it all [on maintaining his fitness after retirement] – keeping fit and wanting to look in the mirror and saying, ‘I look good.”