Sifan Hassan surprised everyone - including herself - with her scintillating performance in the Copenhagen Half Marathon, a five-star certified road race by European Athletics Running for All, on Sunday (16) morning.
At the end of a long and demanding track season which included a 1500/3000m double at the IAAF World Indoors Championships, a 1500/5000m double in the Diamond League finals on back-to-back nights and victory over 3000m at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava last weekend, Hassan defeated one of the deepest fields ever assembled for a half marathon and shattered the European record in doing so.
Hassan pulled clear of pre-race favourite Joan Chelimo from Kenya around the 18km checkpoint. At this stage, the leaders were still close to world record pace but even though Joyciline Jepkosgei’s mark of 64:51 remained intact, Hassan took a sizeable chunk off her compatriot Lornah Kiplagat’s mark on her first serious attempt at the distance.
Hassan, who moved to third on the world all-time mile lists with 4:14.71 less than two months ago, showed unprecedented range by breaking the tape in Copenhagen in a course record of 65:15 to move to eighth on the world all-time lists behind seven Kenyan athletes led by Jepkosgei.
Not only did Hassan smash Kiplagat’s European record of 66:25 set at the 2007 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Udine, Italy, the Dutchwoman was also faster than Paula Radcliffe’s 65:40 set on the marginally downhill Great North Run course in 2003 - the fastest time ever recorded at the time.
Hassan attempted the half marathon distance for the first time as an 18-year-old in 2011 when she won the Utrecht Half Marathon in 77:10. Hassan didn’t give any predictions after winning the 3000m in Ostrava last weekend and her coach Alberto Salazar only gave a conservative estimate in a recent interview, predicting a time between 69-70 minutes.
“I often thought I was going to die!” said Hassan, who didn’t elicit any fear of the distance, passing through 5km in 15:06, 10km in 30:37 and 15km in 46:09. “The pace was so hard, but I just kept coming back.”
Hassan has been one of Europe’s finest 1500m runners since 2014 when she won the European title in Zurich but Salazar has suggested her future lies with the 5000m and 10,000m. Hassan already holds the European 5000m record with 14:22.34 but she is still to contest the longer distance on the track.
Hassan won in Copenhagen by more than half-a-minute from Ethiopia’s Ababel Yeshaneh in 65:46 while Chelimo dropped back to third in 66:15. In total, eleven women broke the 70 minute-mark for the distance.
Just over 22,000 runners took part in the fourth edition of the Copenhagen Half Marathon, including 5500 athletes from abroad.
”We staged a festive celebration with 22,000 participants and we displayed epic Copenhagen in the best possible way. We also need to mention the elite results: a European record for the women and a fantastic, exciting race. This year’s CPH Half has been a fantastic experience and by far the best version,” said Jakob Larsen, CEO of the Danish Athletics Federation.