Vivian Cheruiyot smashed the National 10,000m record on her way to bringing Kenya’s first Olympic medal. In a blistering race, and surely one of the greatest 10,000m Olympic races ever, Cheruiyot ran the race of her life but came second to Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, who broke the World 10,000m record by a scarcely believable 14 seconds. Dirunesh Dibaba powered through the last lap to finish third, with Kenya’s Alice Nawuwona and Betsy Saina finishing fourth and fifth respectively.
From the start, the runners set a searing pace, with Ayana, Nawuwona and Saina leading from the front, with Cheruiyot and Dibaba clipping their heels a few meters behind. Evidence that the pace was going to be unbelievable came as early as the fourth lap, when the leading pack began to lap nearly the entire last half of the runners.
Ayana showed early intent to win the race when she broke free of the leading pack after 5,000m. Vivian Cheruiyot followed suit, with Nawuwona and Dibaba not far behind. With every passing lap, Ayana’s gap ahead of Cheruiyot opened up ever so slightly, and by the 8,000m mark it was clear she was going to win the race comprehensively.
Her time of 29:17.45 smashed one of athletics longest standing records, set by China’s Wang Junxia in 1993. Cheruiyot crossed the line at 29:32.53, over ten seconds ahead of Dibaba, who ran her personal best of 29:42.56. Nawuwona and Saina ran their personal bests of 29:53.51 and 30:07.78 respectively.
Speaking after the race, British long distance great Jo Pavey, 42, who was participating in her fifth Olympic games, said,
“It’s so much faster than you could ever imagine anyone could run. I was aware how soon they lapped us. You hope not to get lapped at all, but to get lapped so early is really shocking. It was almost confusing. Everyone was running so fast you didn’t know who was in which lap”
Seven national records and ten personal bests were broken in this epic race. Congratulations, Vivian Cheruiyot! Kenya is proud.