On Sunday (Dec 4) world 10.000m champion Letesenbet Gidey makes her eagerly anticipated marathon debut in Valencia. Here we offer five reasons to be very optimistic of a good showing by the 24-year-old Ethiopian.
Outstanding natural gifts
Letesenbet was born to run and this was in evidence from her days as a junior athlete. In her first race outside of her homeland she led home a clean sweep of the podium in the women’s U20 race at the 2015 World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China. Achieving the feat just eight days after her 17th birthday she was young enough to return two years later and successfully defend her title at the 2017 edition in Kampala. A stronger more mature athlete by her second World Cross appearance, she blitzed the field to win by a 23-second margin and become only the fourth women in history to claim back-to-back U20 World Cross Country victories.
Throw in a tasty 5.000m PB that year of 14:33.32 in Rome, the promise and potential of the Ethiopian was clear throughout her teenage years.
Eliud Kipchoge has, of course, gone on to enjoy an unsurpassed marathon career having previously been a world-class runner on the track. While we do not wish to place such huge expectation on Letesenbet - her stunning track ability also has to be a major asset when she makes her marathon debut on Sunday. In 2020 she took the world 5.000m record – coincidentally at the NN Valencia World Record Day – to another realm by lowering the 12-year-old mark of compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba by a little over four-and-a-half seconds. Then last year she added the world 10.000m record to her growing collection, wiping the best part of six seconds from the two-day old world record of Sifan Hassan, recording 29:01.03 in Hengelo at the FBK Games.
Born for the roads
A quite brilliant track and cross country runner many experts, however, believe Letesenbet has the most potential to excel on the roads - and the early evidence is compelling. In only her second ever road race, she set a world 15km best of 44:20 in Nijmegen to obliterate the existing world best mark by a staggering one minute and 17 seconds. To further put this blistering time into context she ran the final 10km in 29:12 – a mark which at the time was the fastest time ever recorded by a woman for the 10km distance.
Two years later and in what was just her third ever road race she made, arguably, and even greater impact on her half marathon debut. Destroying the previous world record by an eye-popping 70 seconds she ran a scarcely believable time of 1:02:52 in Valencia to usher in a new age of women’s half marathon running.
The one slight hole in Letesenbet’s quite brilliant CV up until this year was her lack of a major track title. She impressed over 10.000m at both the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Tokyo Olympics, winning silver and bronze respectively, but without mounting the top step of the podium.
Yet in July in Eugene, Oregon she wiped away any doubts she could become a global track champion by edging a four-woman sprint for the line to take the world 10.000m title by a 0.08 margin from Kenyan Hellen Obiri. Claiming that maiden global track crown was unquestionable a relief but also a huge confidence boost for the 24-year-old athlete.
The City of Running
Valencia – the self-styled City of Running – has certainly proved an unforgettable location for Letesenbet who in her two previous competitive appearance in the Spanish port city has set a world record on each occasion. In 2020 she blitzed to the world 5.000m track mark and on the roads last year she obliterated the world half-marathon record.
Outside of the Marathon Majors, the Valencia Marathon is, arguably, the world’s premier marathon. Run on a flat course it regularly consistently delivers fast times, produces reliable and quality pacemakers and the weather often play its part to ensure it is a friendly course enjoyed by the athletes.