IN PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
Joyciline Jepkosgei launched her international running career only a year ago and, already, she is one of the hottest names on the global road running circuit.
The 23-year-old from Cheptil in Nandi County came to Saturday's Prague Half Marathon without any pressure, despite running the seventh fastest time ever over the 21-kilometre distance at last month's RAK Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates, finishing third in an impressive time of one hour, six minutes and eight seconds.
The RAK race was won by compatriot Peres Jepchirchir in a world record 1:05:06.
But Jepkosgei, one of the latest stars in the RunCzech Racing Team crafted Carlo Capalbo, founder of the RunCzech Running League, along with the late athletes' manager manager Zane Branson, shocked even herself by cruising to four world records on the way to winning Saturday's race in a new half marathon world record 1:04:52.
And this was no April Fool's Day joke, as some would have thought on Saturday, as the records now await ratification by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
On a rather tricky but scenic course punctuated by sections of challenging cobble stones, Jepkosgei shattered Briton Paula Radcliffe's 14-year-old, 10-kilometre world record by covering the distance in 30:04, relegating Radcliffe's 30:21, set on February 23, 2003 at the World's Best 10km Race in Puerto Rico, to the archives.
Then she strangled compatriot Florence Kiplagat's 15km world record of 46:15, set in Barcelona in February, 2015, registering a blistering new mark of 45:37.
But the "Nandi Queen" wasn't done yet.
She went for the jugular, crossing the 20km mark in 1:01:25 and eclipsing the previous, still new, world record over the distance (1:01:40 stamped by Jepchirchir on the way to winning at Ras Al Khaimah last month.
The fourth record was over the 21km (half marathon) distance which she recorded by crossing the finish line in 1:04:52, beating Jepchirchir's February 10 world record by some 14 seconds.
Incidentally, Jepchirchir was lined up to run here, but she withdrew in the 11th hour through illness with the men's top draw, Patrick Komon, also pulling out with a back injury picked at last weekend's IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala.
What's interesting is the fact that while cruising through these four world records, Jepkosgei had no idea she was on world record pace.
Her victory threw Capalbo and the RunCzech Racing Team members at the finish line into a frenzy, with journalists alike stunned by the dramatic turn of events.
Joyciline's record-breaking run thoroughly eclipsed the men's race in which Ethiopia's Rio Olympic 10,000 metres bronze medallist Tamirat Tola continued with his amazing form, dipping under the one hour barrier for the first time to win the race in 59:37 ahead of a procession of Kenyans led Josephat Kimutai Tanui (1:00:38), Geoffrey Yegon (1:00:41) and pre-race favourite Barselius Kipyego (1:00:47).
USA's Olympic Marathon bronze medallist Galen Rupp, running his first half marathon in Europe, was down at 11th place in 1:01:59.
So blistering was the women's pace that the top four runners clocked personal best times with 22-year-old Fancy Chemutai finishing third on her debut in 1:06:58.
"I wasn't chasing the world record because my manager told me to relax and not to run under pressure," the new world record holder said.
"I can't believe it! Because even when I was coming to the finish line, I didn't know I was inside the world record."
Indeed, as she crossed the finish line and almost collapsed into the arms of her waiting designated pacemaker Edwin Kimutai Kiplagat, Jepkosgei didn't appear to have realised what she just did.
"I'm happy because it's my personal best. I have run three half marathons so far and I'm so happy.”
Jepkosgei took the early lead and raced alongside compatriot Violah Jepchumba, previous holder of the Prague Half Marathon course record (1:05:51) which was the fastest time last year.
But in the second half of the race, Jepkosgei shook Jepchumba off, crossing the 15km mark in 45:37, well inside Florence Kiplagat's previous world record over the distance (46:14)
"I was running my own race and my body was feeling good and I didn't even realise when I left Violah. I just wanted to run my own pace, a pace which is good for me," said Jepkosgei, who is coached in Kapsabet by her husband Nicholas Koech.
The couple have shuffled their training between Iten, Kapsabet and Ngong, with the result coming in the form of a world record.
Asked if she would change her nationality and run for the Czech Republic since she has signed for the RunCzech Racing Team and does many of her races in Czech, Jepkosgei was firm in her response.
"No, I cannot do that! Because when I run, I'm representing my country and I feel good representing my country," she said.
In the men's race, Tola was pretty much a lonely figure after crossing the 10km mark (28:31) where he shook off Barselius Kipyego.
His 15km and 20km splits were 42:26 and 56:36 and he was the only finisher to dip under the magical 60.
Tola came into the race with serious credentials, highlighted by an Olympic 10,000m bronze and victory in February's Dubai Marathon where he ran in 2:04:11 which made him the ninth fastest marathon runner of all time.
Despite the win, Tola rued the fact that he didn't have the world record in his plans, because it was "gettable" on a fine course and brilliant running conditions.
"At 5km I saw the pace was slow (14:22)," he reflected. "If we had targeted a world record, it would have been possible.
"But I hadn't thought of going for the world record before and I was just thinking of running my personal best time."
Which he did, as he improved on his previous best 1:00:06 by almost half a minute.
He appears undecided on whether to focus on the 10,000m or the marathon at the World Championships in London in August, saying he leaves his fate with the Ethiopian Athletics Federation.
Meanwhile, Capalbo said he had put together a good course but was quick to point out that the praise for the World record show belonged to the late Zane Branson, who died while on a morning run in Iten, Elgeyo-Marakwet County almost two years ago and was buried inside Iten's Kerio View Hotel compound.
Branson's vision was to see a strong team of largely Kenyan and Czech runners running under one label, and that's how the RunCzech Racing Team was born.
"A big thank you should go to Branson who is not here. This was his dream," said Capalbo, who is also the chairman of the IAAF Road Running Commission, as he celebrated Jepkosgei's world record on a clear morning.
Jepkosgei arrives back in Nairobi on Sunday night.
1. Joyciline Jepkosgei (Kenya) 1:04:52 (world record)
2. Violah Jepchumba (Kenya) 1:05:22
3. Fancy Chemutai (Kenya) 1:06:58
4. Valary Jemei Aiyabei (Kenya) 1:07:50
5. Gladys Chesir (Kenya) 1:07:51
6. Jordan Hasay (USA) 1:07:55
7. Yvonne Jelagat (Kenya) 1:09:04
8. Stellah Barsosio (Kenya) 1:09:59
9. Sarah Jebet (Kenya) 1:11:20
10. Lucy Cheruiyot (Kenya) 1:11:21
1. Tamirat Tola (Ethiopia) 59:37
2. Josephat Kimutai Tanui (Kenya) 1:00:38
3. Geoffrey Yegon (Kenya) 1:00:41
4. Barselius Kipyego (Kenya) 1:00:47
5. Geoffrey Koech (Kenya) 1:01:00
6. Abraham Kipyatich (Kenya) 1:01:03
7. Eliud Mwangi Macharia (Kenya) 1:01:20
8. Hiskel Tewelde (Eritrea) 1:01:31
9. Vincent Yator (Kenya) 1:01:40
10. Amos Kipruto Mitei (Kenya) 1:01:46
11. Galen Rupp (USA) 1:01:59
12. Daniele Meucci (Italy) 1:02:17
13. Evans Kipkogei Ruto (Kenya) 1:02:26
14. Faniel Eyob (Italy) 1:03:09
15. Nicodemus Kipkurui Kimutai (Kenya) 1:03:13