Europe’s standout runners take on the world at inaugural World Running Championships in Riga

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  • Europe’s standout runners take on the world at inaugural World Running Championships in Riga

The focus of attention this weekend shifts to the first ever staging of the World Athletics Road Running Championships which takes place in the Latvian capital of Riga on 1 October.

Some 347 athletes from 57 countries, including some of Europe’s finest distance runners, have entered the three individual medal events comprising the championships - road mile, 5km and half marathon - and they will be joined by runners from as many as 90 countries who have registered for the mass events running alongside the elite races.

This format of bringing the mass and elite runners together for one big festival of running will be repeated at the 2025 European Running Championships which take place for the very first time in Brussels-Leuven on 12-13 April.

The focal point of those championships will be the marathon which will take place on a course starting in Brussels and finishing in the historic town of Leuven. And whoever crosses the line first will have the cachet of being crowned men’s and women’s European champions in the event.

The programme for the 2025 European Running Championships also includes races over 10km and the half marathon distance.

For more information on the European Running Championships, please click here

Who are Europe’s leading hopes in Riga?

European 5000m champion Konstanze Klosterhalfen will be looking to finish her summer on a high note after a persistent foot injury forced her to miss the World Athletics Championships in Budapest.

Klosterhalfen might be better known for her track exploits but the German showed her potential at the longer distances last autumn with a highly promising half marathon debut in Valencia where she took the victory in 65:41. 

Based on lifetime best performances, Klosterhalfen is the fifth fastest in the line-up which is headed by Olympic marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir from Kenya (65:06) and her teammate Irine Kimais (64:37).

Klosterhalfen will be joined on the start-line by teammate Alina Reh (68:42), who will be using this race as part of her preparation for her marathon debut in the Valencia Marathon in December, although with only two entrants, the Germans won’t be able to contend for the team race after winning a surprise bronze at the 2020 World Half Marathon Championships.

A British team featuring Samantha Harrison (67:17) and Calli Thackeray (69:01) should feature individually and in the team race while Sweden’s Sarah Lahti and France’s Mekdes Woldu are also among the fastest European entrants with lifetime bests of 68:19 and 69:43 respectively.

Similarly, Europe’s best hope in the men’s half marathon lies with a runner who might be better known for his exploits on other surfaces - namely cross country - but also showed his talent with an auspicious debut only a few months ago.

France’s Jimmy Gressier broke the one hour-barrier in his first race at the distance in the Paris Half Marathon in March, finishing third in 59:55. On the road to Paris 2024, can Gressier break up the expected East African hegemony in the event?

Reigning European marathon champion Richard Ringer from Germany will also be in the field (61:09) although with Italy's Pietro Riva (60:30) and his teammate Iliass Aouani (62:32) who broke 2004 Olympic marathon champion Stefano Baldini's Italian marathon record earlier this year with 2:07:16. 

The European all-time road mile lists are likely to undergo significant revision this weekend.

Based on times set on record eligible courses, the European all-time lists are headed by Swedes Ulf Hogberg and Maria Akraka at 3:57.1h and 4:29.0h and it will be interesting to see if anyone can threaten the European record target times which have been set at 3:52.5 and 4:21.5.

The standout entrants in the women’s race featuring Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon are Spain’s Maria Perez and Sarah McDonald from Great Britain while Italy’s Mohad Abdikadar Sheik Ali will arrive full of confidence fresh from ending his track season by running a 1500m PB of 3:33.79.

Multiple European cross country medallists Nadia Battocletti from Italy and Klara Lukan from Slovenia highlight the European interest in the women’s road 5km and Spain’s Ouassim Oumaiz and former European U20 5000m champion Joel Ibler Lillesø from Denmark are among the leading European entrants in the men’s 5km.

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