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Istanbul Half Marathon prepares for stacked elite races

Scheduled for April 4, the event has the potential to be one of the best races of the year

Geoffrey Kamworor

The lineups for the Istanbul Half Marathon have been released, and the men’s and women’s elite fields are absolutely stacked. The event will feature multiple world record holders and world champions, which will make for a couple of can’t-miss races. The Istanbul Half is set for April 4, and with such stellar start lists, it’s likely that it will be one of the best running events of 2021.

Recovering from the pandemic

The Istanbul Half Marathon is traditionally held in early April, but last year’s race had to be moved due to COVID-19. Unlike many races around the world that originally postponed their events and ended up cancelling them altogether at a later date, the Istanbul Half managed to go ahead in September.

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The event, which hosted a reduce field of around 2,500 amateur runners, was a success, although the elite races produced much slower results than in years past, with the winners coming in at 1:03:16 and 1:13:17 (compared to winning times of 59:56 and 1:05:30 in 2019). This year, fast races and results are pretty much guaranteed with the calibre of fields set to run.

The women’s race

The women’s race is headlined by several athletes. With a PB of 1:04:46, Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw has the fastest seed time of the field. Her PB, which she ran in New Delhi in 2020, is the second-fastest half-marathon result in history, behind only Ababel Yeshaneh, who owns the world record of 1:04:31.

Next up is Kenyan marathon world record holder Brigid Kosgei, who boasts a half-marathon PB of 1:04:49 (third-fastest all time). Ruth Chepngetich, also from Kenya, will be back in Istanbul after winning the half-marathon in 2019. She has a PB of 1:05:06, which is identical to that of her fellow Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir.

Peres Jepchirchir at the finish line of the World Athletics Half-Marathon Championships, which she won in a women’s-only world record of 1:05:16.

While they have the same PB, Jepchirchir owns a half-marathon world record. This probably doesn’t appear to make much sense, but it’s true, as Jepchirchir has run the women’s-only half-marathon world record, which she set in her win at the World Athletics Half-Marathon Championships in Poland in 2020 when she ran 1:05:16.

There are two women’s world records in the half-marathon, and while Yeshaneh owns one (which she ran alongside men), Jepchirchir owns the other (which she ran with women). With the marathon world record holder, the women’s-only half-marathon world record holder and several other women with sub-1:06 results to their names, this will be a doozy of a race, and it shouldn’t be a surprise if the winner drops a record or near-record time.

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The men’s race

Kenya’s Kibiwott Kandie may have the world record in the half-marathon (he ran 57:32 in Valencia last December), but he will have to share the spotlight with compatriot Geoffrey Kamworor heading into the Istanbul Half. Before Kandie ran his 57:32, Kamworor owned the half-marathon world record of 58:01.

Kibiwott Kandie crosses the line at the Valencia Half-Marathon, crushing the world record in 57:32.

Istanbul will be Kamworor’s first half-marathon since he was involved in a motorcycle accident, and all eyes will be on him and Kandie to see who comes out on top. There are four other men in the field with sub-60 half-marathon PBs, though, and they certainly could challenge the two Kenyans on April 4.

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No matter how the races shake out, they’re apt to be thrilling television, and although they’ll start early in the morning here in Canada, they will definitely be worth the premature wakeup call.