Before he even lined up in Copenhagen on Sunday (15), Geoffrey Kamworor was already considered to be one of the best ever half marathon runners in history.
At the age of 26, the Kenyan had won three consecutive world titles at the distance – as well as winning two world cross-country titles in the ‘off’ years in between. He had won nine of his 13 career half marathons and had a lifetime best of 58:54.
But the one achievement missing from the half marathon section of his CV was a world record.
Three weeks ago, Kamworor won the hotly contested Kenyan 10,000m title, clocking 27:24.76 in the altitude of Nairobi, hinting at his strong form ahead of the Copenhagen Half Marathon.
The conditions in the Danish capital on the day weren’t quite perfect – if anything, the brief heavy rain shower was reminiscent of the torrid weather in Cardiff in 2016 when Kamworor won the second of his three world half marathon crowns – but it wasn’t enough to derail his world record aims.
He gradually increased his pace up to and including 15 kilometres, clipping off the five-kilometre segments in 13:53, 13:41 and 13:31. His pace dipped slightly from then on as he followed it with 13:56, but he was still well inside his target pace.
Kamworor was rewarded with a finishing time of 58:01, taking 17 seconds off the previous world record and confirming his status as one of the all-time greats over 13.1 miles.
Born: 22 November 1992. Coach: Patrick Sang.
Ever since his breakthrough year in 2011, Geoffrey Kamworor has earned a reputation not only for being a big-time performer, but also for his versatility.
After taking up running at the age of 16, he joined the Global Sports Camp at the end of 2010 and has been guided by 1992 Olympic steeplechase silver medallist Patrick Sang – coach to world marathon record-holder Eliud Kipchoge, among others – for much of his career.
Kamworor burst on to the international scene in 2011 when winning the U20 title at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria. During the track season he recorded PBs of 13:12.23 for 5000m and 27:06.35 for 10,000m, and then later in the year he took to the roads and recorded a lifetime best of 59:31 for the half marathon, making him the second-fastest U20 athlete for the distance at the time.
Still aged just 19, he made his marathon debut in September 2012, finishing third in Berlin in 2:06:12. He continued to compete – and impress – across all surfaces in 2013, clocking a half marathon PB of 58:54 to win in Ras al Khaimah and then finishing third again at the Berlin Marathon.
He made his senior championship debut in 2014 at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen. He won in 59:08 and defeated legendary Eritrean Zersenay Tadese, kick-starting a winning streak of global titles.
Kamworor added the world cross-country title to his collection in 2015 and took the silver medal over 10,000m at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.
He successfully defended his world half marathon crown in 2016. Despite the brutal wet and windy conditions and after falling at the start, Kamworor still managed to clock 59:10 to defeat an all-star line-up that included the likes of world and Olympic champion Mo Farah.
He retained his world cross-country title in 2017, reeling in long-time leader Joshua Cheptegei in yet another memorable race, and later in the year won the New York City Marathon, his first victory over 26.2 miles.
Kamworor’s latest global title came in 2018 when – thanks to a 13:01 split between 15km and 20km – he added a third world half marathon crown to his collection in Valencia.
Earlier this year, Kamworor took the bronze medal at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus. He passed up the chance of competing at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 to instead focus on breaking the world record in Copenhagen. His plan paid off and he was rewarded with a 58:01 clocking in the Danish capital.
5000m, 10,000m, half marathon, marathon
2011: 13:12.23, 27:06.35, 59:31
2012: 13:28.8, -, 59:26, 2:06:12
2013: -, 28:17.0A, 58:54, 2:06:26
2014: -, -, 59:07, 2:06:39
2015: 13:13.28, 26:52.65, 2:10:48
2016: 12:59.98, 27:31.94, 59:10
2017: 13:01.35, 26:57.77, -, 2:10:53
2018: -, -, 1:00:02, 2:06:26, 2:06:26
2019: -, 27:24.76A, 58:01
World half marathon record progression
Twenty-five years have passed since the first sub-60-minute half marathon. Just two seconds now stand in the way of history’s first sub-58-minute performance.
59:47 Moses Tanui (KEN) Milan 3 April 1993
59:17 Paul Tergat (KEN) Milan 4 April 1998
59:16 Samuel Wanjiru (KEN) Rotterdam 11 September 2005
58:55 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Tempe 15 January 2006
58:33 Samuel Wanjiru (KEN) The Hague 17 March 2007
58:23 Zersenay Tadese (ERI) Lisbon 21 March 2010
58:18 Abraham Kiptum (KEN) Valencia 28 October 2018
58:01 Geoffrey Kamworor (KEN) Copenhagen 15 September 2019