A magnificent performance from Jake Smith (coach: James Thie; club: Cardiff) saw him lowered his own British Under-23 half marathon record and move third on the all-time British list with an impressive 60:31 clocking at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia, Poland.
Over the near five-and-a-half kilometre loop on the streets of Poland, Smith produced a measured run, keeping pace with the leading group to go through the 10km mark in a PB of 28:43 and continued to challenge with some of the biggest names in the sport as the race wore on.
Into the home straight, the emotion on Smith’s face turned to elation as he looked up to see the time of 60:31 appear, chopping almost 90 seconds off his previous best of 62:00, set at the Vitality Big Half back in February.
His performance spearheaded the team to an overall 10th place finish, clocking a time of 3:06:17, with Mo Aadan (Paul Oppe; Thames Valley) and Kris Jones (Dundee Hawkhill) coming home in 50th and 60th respectively in 62:41 and 63:05, a PB for the latter.
After the race, Smith said: “When I came down that final straight and saw what I was at, at the 20km mark, I couldn’t believe it. I got a 10km PB along the way and I was with the main group when I did that and it was so good. In that last lap, I caught one of the Turkish guys and just worked with him and I knew once we were at the top of the hill, it was downhill all the way.
“I put everything into the downhill and tried to hang on as much as I could. I started crying happy tears on the home straight because I just couldn’t believe it.
“I couldn’t ask for a better team, we all get on so well and we were warming up as a group and I couldn’t ask for anyone else to share this with.”
Aadan went out well and paced his race well to record a season’s best, with Jones working his way through the field after going out strongly in the early stages, ensuring he came away with a PB.
On his senior British debut, Adam Craig (Steve Vernon; Inverclyde) knocked a further 12 seconds off his lifetime best with a 63:12 clocking that earned him 62nd place overall, with Tom Evans (Andrew Hobdell; Belgrave), making his British debut on the roads, 64th in 63:14, a personal best by one second.
On the team spirit and performance, Aadan added: “Our team spirit is and was very, very high. Everyone was up for it. I tried my best to get a PB and got a season’s best instead but I was a little bit out.
“This is my third time out with the British team and I haven’t seen spirit like this. It’s like all of us have been together for a few months, not days. Everyone is proud to wear this vest and I’m so grateful for our wonderkid [Jake], he’s superman today.”
Jacob Kiplimo (UGA) came away with top spot for Uganda in a championship record of 58:49, with Kibiwott Kandie (KEN) and Amedework Walelegn (ETH) rounding out the individual medal spots in 58:54 and 59:08 respectively.
The senior women’s team, which saw all three British athletes making their senior debuts at the championships, were led to 15th position in the overall standings, with Samantha Harrison (Vince Wilson; Charnwood) leading the way in 71:53.
Harrison and Becky Briggs (Mick Woods; City of Hull), the latter of whom was the youngest athlete in the field at just 20-years-old packed well in the early stages but as the pace was quickened, the Brits were made to work hard as field stretched out.
Harrison showed good pace through the 10km split, sitting in 31st position, breaking the split in 33:29 and held kept her consistency through until the line, leading the scoring in 47th spot.
Clara Evans (Chris Jones; Cardiff), making her maiden appearance in a British team, found herself in a sprint finish with Briggs in the closing stages, Evans cutting the tape in 73:11.
After the race, Harrison said: “I was really happy with that, the course was much tougher than I anticipated it being and it really took it out of your legs. I started off well but as the race wore on it all just started to take its toll.
“I’m happy with it for my senior debut, I gave it all that I could and I’m happy to be inside the top 50 on my first appearance in a British vest.”
Briggs added: “You look around you and the level of competition is insane. I’m only 20 but what an amazing experience to be in the same race as some of these girls, especially when they’re breaking the world record like they have done today.
“A lot of young athletes don’t step up to the bigger distances until much later in their career but I feel like I’m ready to compete on world events and on that stage. Hopefully in years to come I’ll have the opportunity to do so again and I’ll have more miles in my legs. That performance out there is just a stepping stone to what is to come later.”
Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir produced a world record run to take her second World Half Marathon title, clocking 65:16, as Germany’s Melat Yisak Kejeta set a national record of 65:18 for silver, with Yalemzerf Yehualaw claiming bronze in 65:19.
Full results from the race are available on the World Athletics website.