Joshua Cheptegei and Letesenbet Gidey smash distance running world records in Valencia

On a historic night of distance running, two long-standing world records were comfortably broken.

By Andrew Binner

In a one-off event dedicated to breaking two world records, Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei and Ethiopia's Letesenbet Gidey delivered in style.

Cheptegei clocked 26:11:02 at the NN World Record Day event in Valencia, Spain to beat Kenenisa Bekele’s 15-year-old 10,000m record of 26:17.53.

"It was my dream. We are trying to write history on the track and make people to know that track is still exciting," the 10,000m world champion, said after.

Asked if this moment means he has 'achieve greatness' in athletics, he replied:

"I think this is just the foundation of what I want to achieve in years to come."

Before that, Gidey crossed the line in 14:06:65 to smash Tirunesh Dibaba’s 12-year-old world record of 14:11:15 in the women’s 5,000m.

The Ethiopian was a picture of calm from the starting gun to the finish line, upping the pace on each lap to finish almost five seconds ahead of the previous best time.

"This is a long-term dream and I'm very happy," the 22-year-old said.

"It is very nice (for Ethiopia). Before it was Tirunesh Dibaba, and now it's me."

Second world record for Cheptegei in 2020

Cheptegei was in fine form going into the race at Turia Stadium, having broken Bekele’s 5,000m world record at the Monaco Diamond League in August.

Following that performance, double 10,000m Olympic champion world record holder Haile Gebreselassie described the Ugandan as ‘simply the best’. High praise indeed from a distance running legend, but an accolade that Cheptegei ultimately proved he was worthy of.

The race began just before 22:00 local time in warm, windless conditions. Despite the largely empty stadium, there was plenty of atmosphere due to the large crowds watching from afar on the high city walls.

Using pacers and Wavelight technology, where lights flashing up at an assigned pace around the track’s rail, Cheptegei was in perfect position at the midway point with a 13:07:73 split. From there he simply got faster and eventually finished almost seven seconds faster than the previous world record.

Cheptegei’s magnificent run fulfilled his own prophecy, having told Olympic Channel in an exclusive interview in September:

"I am in outstanding form (at the Monaco Diamond League). I would like to make the most of my current shape by attacking the 10,000m world record and hopefully we can once again create something truly special in Valencia."

He also revealed the secret to his success and you can read more about that here.

Having now racked up several world titles and world records, Cheptegei is quickly cementing his legendary status in distance running.

But the Kapsewui-born man has had to go through some bitter disappointments in the sport, and wasn’t even always into running. Click here to find out five things you probably didn’t know about Cheptegei here.


Free live sport events. Unlimited access to series. Unrivalled Olympic news & highlights.