World cross country silver medallist Berihu Aregawi stormed to a 26:33 10km win in the northern Spanish town of Laredo on Saturday (11).
In doing so, the Ethiopian 22-year-old achieved the second-fastest men’s 10km of all time behind Rhonex Kipruto’s world record of 26:24 set in Valencia three years ago. He also broke the Ethiopian record by 23 seconds.
Aregawi is the world record-holder for 5km, a feat he managed in Barcelona on 31 December 2021 thanks to a 12:49 run, and he had set his sights on the 10km world record since then.
Contesting only his second ever 10km race and wearing his usual orange and blue outfit, Aregawi was due to be paced by Uganda’s Peter Maru but the 19-year-old 13:07.42 5000m specialist missed his flight the day before and the organisers were forced to find a replacement pacemaker in Spain’s Sergio Jimenez, a fine 7:47.95 3000m athlete.
Jimenez was asked to go through the opening 3km in 7:55, right on schedule to assault the world record, but to much surprise Aregawi overtook the pacemaker just before the first kilometre mark, which he reached in a frantic 2:36.
The Tokyo Olympic 10,000m fourth-place finisher maintained that brisk cadence, reaching 3km in 7:51 after successive kilometre splits of 2:37 and 2:38. Aregawi went through the halfway point in 13:10, on track for a world record. By then, he had built a 57-second margin on a quintet featuring Britain’s Tom Mortimer, Ireland’s Efrem Gidey, Morocco’s Abderraahmane Aferdi and the Spanish pair of Fernando Carro and Javier Guerra.
Despite running without a pacemaker and being hampered by slightly rainy conditions, Aregawi’s relentless rhythm continued into the second half of the race but his speed then slowed a bit and he covered the following kilometres in the 2:40/2:42 range. Even so, he was timed at 21:14 at 8km to keep a realistic chance of a world record performance.
However, a 2:43 ninth kilometre put him back and despite a brave final effort of 2:36 for the closing kilometre, he was just outside his goal.
“I have mixed feelings as the race was great but I had set the goal of breaking the world record,” he said. “Running on my own for almost the whole race was not easy but the main handicap for me was the tight turns as the road was wet and I was afraid of slipping at the zebra crossings. But anyway, I’m really satisfied.”
Way back, the 22-year-old Gidey beat his rivals in the chasing pack after a thrilling sprint to take the runner-up spot in 28:17 to Mortimer’s 28:18, while Spanish 3000m steeplechase record-holder Carro was given the same time in fourth.
Held jointly with the men’s race, the women’s event was won by Kenya’s world U20 3000m silver medallist Zenah Jemutai Yego.
The 20-year-old, contesting the second 10km race of her career so far, ran a PB of 31:03 to win by 10 seconds ahead of her compatiot Mirriam Chebet.
Morocco’s Soukaina Atanane completed the podium in 31:21.
Spain’s former triathlete Paula Herrero, who only took up athletics a few months ago, came fourth in a national record of 31:23 as the first four women all set respective lifetime bests.
Additional reporting by the World Athletics