Yalemzerf Yehualaw took 19 seconds off Ruth Chepngetich’s world record for the women’s half-marathon in Larne, Northern Ireland, on Sunday, August 29.
Racing in the Antrim Coast Half-Marathon, the 22-year-old Ethiopian clocked 63:43 to beat the Kenyan’s 64:02 mark.
“It’s a dream come true,” she said, “and something I’ve worked for my whole life.”
Yehualaw did not make the Olympic team after finishing fourth in the Ethiopian 10,000m trial race in Hengelo this summer in 30:20.77.
She had already shown great ability on the roads, though, as she took bronze at the World Half-Marathon Championships in Gdynia last year in 65:19.
Her 2020 season ended with an even faster time over 13.1 miles, too, when she clocked 64:46 at the New Delhi Half-Marathon.
In April this year she posted another fast half-marathon with 64:40 behind Chepngetich’s world record run in Istanbul. “I was frustrated not to get the record in Istanbul but I am extremely happy now,” she said on Sunday.
At the Antrim Coast event Yehualaw sat behind pacemakers Mo Ali and Roy Hoornweg and passed 5km in 15:05, 10km in 30:22 and 15km in 45:24 before surging clear on her own in the latter stages to stun the distance running world.
She only turned 22 earlier this month and made her international running debut as recently as 2019.
Kenya’s Vane Nyaboke was runner-up in 69:44 with Britain’s Rose Harvey third in 70:28.
Among the spectators was Mo Farah, who won the race in 2020 but was forced to sit the 2021 event out due to injury. The multiple Olympic champion was helping the commentary team as he is friends with race organiser and former 800m international James McIlroy.
Jemal Yimer of Ethiopia won the men’s race in 60:31 as he fought off a challenge from fellow Ethiopian Tesfahun Akalnew and Kenya’s Shadrack Kimining.
Marc Scott was with the leaders until the latter stages and held on strongly to run a PB of 60:34 in fourth. For the Briton it was slightly faster than he ran in 2020 when he finished runner-up to Farah.
Yimer has a PB of 58:32 but did not get close to that and complained a little about the windy conditions, which makes Yehualaw’s performance in the women’s race even more remarkable.