Ruth Chepngetich

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Ruth Chepngetich wins world championship marathon of attrition

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Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich, who won the Dubai Marathon earlier this year with the third-fastest time in history (2:17:08), broke away from the a small lead pack with seven kilometers remaining to win the world championship Saturday morning under sauna-like conditions in Doha, Qatar.

Chepngetich finished in 2:32:43, perfectly pacing herself through a race in which many runners exhausted themselves early on. Defending champion Rose Chelimo of Bahrain was second, 1:03 behind. Namibia’s Helalia Johannes took third ahead of two-time world champion Edna Ngeringwony Kiplagat of Kenya.

Roberta Groner, a 41-year-old runner and the oldest athlete in any event on the U.S. team, outlasted other runners to finish sixth in 2:38:44.

Even with the race taking place in the middle of the night along the Doha waterfront, organizers reported a starting temperature of 32.7 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) with 73.3 percent humidity, putting the heat index at 111 degrees Fahrenheit. The IAAF’s live commentary said conditions in the 2007 world championships in Osaka weren’t too far behind those numbers at 32 degrees Celsius and 74 percent humidity.

The runners started conservatively, with a large pack passing the 5k mark in 18:21, roughly on pace for a 2:35 marathon. Still, the heat took its toll by the halfway mark, with all three Ethiopian entries — Tokyo Marathon winner Ruti Aga, Roza Dereje and Shure Demise — withdrawing. 

They were far from alone. Only 40 of the 68 runners who started made it across the finish line.

A lead pack of five runners — Chelimo, Johannes and the Kenyan trio of Chepngetich, Kiplagat and Visiline Jepkesho built a lead of nearly a minute by the 15k mark.

Israeli runner Lonah Chemtai Salpeter managed to chip away at that lead by the 25k mark and join up with Jepkesho, who had fallen 13 seconds behind. But Jepkesho continued to fade, and Salpeter wound up 11:53 behind before withdrawing. The top survivor behind the lead pack was Volha Mazuronak of Belarus, followed by Groner.

The lead pack of four that had run together since the 15k mark finally broke apart at 35k, when Chepngetich revved up the speed. Chelimo broke away in pursuit, leaving Johannes and Kiplagat together. 

Groner has taken an unusual path to get to world championship level. She gave up running after college, only to return 10 years later after giving birth to three kids. She ran her first marathon in 2011 in Chicago, finishing in 3:12:42. Since then, she has chipped away a few minutes each year and broke the 2:30 mark earlier this year in Rotterdam.

The two other Americans also finished the race. Carrie Dimoff finished 13th in 2:44:35. Kelsey Bruce crossed the line 38th in 3:09:37, nearly 38 minutes off her personal best.

Earlier in the day, the heat had much less impact on events in Khalifa International Stadium, where athletes occasionally took advantage of air-conditioning vents near the track. Most medal contenders advanced through their preliminary rounds with little trouble.

FRIDAY: Defending champs Gatlin, Coburn and Taylor advance

The world championship schedule for Saturday includes a pair of late-night distance events, with men and women each competing in the punishing 50k walk.

TRACK AND FIELD WORLDS: TV Schedule | U.S. Roster

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World championship women’s marathon still on despite heat and humidity

Doha waterfront
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The track and field organizing body IAAF showed confidence Friday that its preparations for Qatar’s harsh weather will be sufficient, announcing that the women’s marathon scheduled just before midnight local time (5 p.m. EDT) will proceed as scheduled.

The IAAF statement says the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature, a measurement of heat that factors humidity, wind and sunlight into the equation, will be below 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), which falls within the range organizers expected.

READ: World championships open with early heats and hot marathon

Still, the IAAF left open the possibility of a late change: “Any decision to alter the starting time of the event will be made by 10.30pm, on the recommendation of the IAAF Medical Delegate.”

Plans to beat the heat include an increase in the usual number of stations at which runners can pick up drinks. The race will be run on a loop along the Doha waterfront.

Runners set to compete include defending champion Rose Chelimo of Bahrain and Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich, who ran the third-fastest women’s marathon of all time earlier this year in Dubai.

The Olympic Channel will carry the race live. NBC Sports Gold will have extended coverage starting at 4:30 p.m. EDT.

NBCSN will have live coverage of the day’s other events, including early rounds of the men’s 100m and the women’s pole vault, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT, and NBC Sports Gold will stream live coverage of every event over the 10-day meet.

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World track and field championships to open with field stars, hot marathon

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The last track and field world championships under the IAAF name — the world federation has approved a name change to World Athletics — will start Friday in Doha, Qatar at 4:30 p.m. local time (9:30 a.m. Eastern time) with the qualification round of the long jump.

Through the course of the day, top field event starts will be in action, trying to qualify for the finals in their events. Up first is Olympic long jump champion Jeff Henderson, who has had a curious season — his jump of 8.38 meters from April is fourth in the world this year, but he hasn’t been close to that since.

Women’s pole vaulter Jenn Suhr, the 2012 gold medalist, has had a similar season, clearing 4.91 meters in March but struggling the rest of the year. She’s one of three U.S. medal contenders along with Sandi Morris and Katie Nageotte.

One of the best friendly rivalries in sports will resume in men’s triple jump qualification, with Will Claye and Christian Taylor drawn into different groups.

READ: Claye, Taylor have epic duel in Paris

Gwen Berry, a hammer thrower who raised a fist on the Pan Am Games podium to draw attention to social issues this summer, is part of a trio of Americans occupying the top three places on the world performance list this year. DeAnna Price is first on the list, followed by Brooke Andersen. They’ll all be in action trying to avoid stumbling in the qualifying round.

READ: Imboden, Berry protest at Pan Am Games

Other top U.S. athletes going through qualifying rounds Friday include Ajee Wilson in the women’s 800m, Vashti Cunningham in the women’s high jump, Emma Coburn in the women’s steeplechase and Rai Benjamin in the men’s 400m hurdles.

NBCSN will have live coverage of the day’s action from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern, and NBC Sports Gold will stream live coverage of every event over the 10-day meet.

A few hours later (11:59 p.m. local time, 4:59 p.m. ET), the women’s marathon will take place — probably.

The weather in Doha has been a serious concern, and the current forecast calls for 90-degree temperature along with a steamy humidity reading in the mid-70s. Postponement is an option.

Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich is the favorite after winning the Dubai Marathon in January with the third-fastest time ever — 2:17:08.

The Olympic Channel will carry the race live. NBC Sports Gold will have extended coverage starting at 4:30 p.m. ET.

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TRACK AND FIELD WORLDS: TV Schedule | U.S. Roster

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