At the eDreams Mitja Marato de Barcelona on Sunday, February 16, Florence Kiplagat ran her fastest-ever half-marathon—by a lot. In fact, she ran it faster than any woman has ever run the distance before.
The 26-year-old Kenyan cut more than a minute off of her previous personal best to finish in 1:05:12, shattering the previous record of 1:05:50, set by her countrywoman Mary Keitany in 2011.
From the start of the race, it was clear that Kiplagat was having a career day, but it took her some time to get on world-record pace. As IAAF.org reports, she ran the first 10 kilometers in 31:08—more than a minute faster than her personal best over that distance, but still 23 seconds off of the pace that Keitany had run during her record-setting performance at the RAK Half-Marathon in the UAE.
By 15 kilometers, Kiplagat had made up that time and more: Her 46:35 put her five seconds ahead of Keitany. Following a pacemaker change-up one kilometer later—Stanley Siroro jumped in to replace Marc Roig—Kiplagat continued to fly through the Barcelona streets, reaching 20 kilometers in 1:01:56, a world record over that distance by 40 seconds.
She stayed strong through the end, beating the next-closest female finisher, Great Britain’s Nicola Duncan, by more than seven minutes and taking fourth overall, behind a trio of men led by fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge.
Although Kiplagat has been planning an “assault on the record” since winning the 2013 BMW Berlin Marathon in September, IAAF.org reports, she said afterward that she “didn’t expect a time as fast as this” and was simply looking for a good tune-up in advance of April’s Virgin Money London Marathon.
"This is a not a day I will forget, I’m so happy!” Kiplagat said. “The circuit was very fast, and I really want to thank my pacemakers, Marc Roig and Stanley Siroro, they did a great job. I felt so well from the beginning and the weather was perfect, so I had the feeling that this could be a special day.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg