Julius Chepkwony winning the 2015 Venice Marathon (© Organisers)
Kenyan Priscah Jepleting Cherono, the 2007 world 5000m bronze medallist, will headline the women’s field at the 31st edition of the Venice Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday (23).
Jepleting’s career began as a regular fixture on Kenyan squads at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships from 1997 to 2011, during which she contributed to five world team medals and captured silver in the short course race in 2006.
She made her half marathon debut in Lille in 2012 where she clocked 1:08:35 and this year improved her marathon best to 2:29:35 at Enschede. On the track she boasts lifetimes bests of 14:35.30 in the 5000m in 2006 and 30:56.43 in the 10000m set at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu where she finished fourth.
“I have been out with an ankle injury but I am now training well,” said Jepleting, now 36. “I have big hopes for Venice. Hopefully I will be able to lower my personal best.”
Jepleting will take on compatriot Ester Wanjiru Macharia, who has a 2:30:54 PB set in Bregenz in 2013, and Ethiopia’s Adula Askale Alemayehu, who has a marathon best of 2:33:08 set in Madrid this year and a 1:10:01 half marathon best from Rome Ostia race in 2015.
Italy will be represented by three-time national marathon champion Ivana Iozzia, who holds a PB of 2:34:07.
Chepkwony targeting rare defence
In the men’s contest, Julius Chepkwony Rotich will return to defend his title. The Kenyan clocked 2:11:08 last year finishing ahead of compatriots Robert Ndiwa and Emmanuel Sikuku. Chepkwony leads the field with a personal best of 2:09:00 set in Daegu in 2014 and clocked another sub-2:10 time in Eindhoven four years ago.
The only runners who have managed back-to-back victories in the Venice Marathon were Italian Salvatore Bettiol in 1986 and 1987 and Kipkorir Kosgei in 2006 and 2007.
Another runner who knows the tough Venice course very well is Kenyan Titus Masai, who finished runner-up in his debut over the marathon distance in Venice in 2012 in very difficult weather conditions where he battled heavy rain and wind. Masai holds a solid half-marathon personal best of 59:41 set at the Rome Ostia race in 2014 and a marathon best time of 2:11:16 set in Turin in 2014.
Other Kenyans to watch include Francis Maina Ngare, who was a 2:11:42 PB from 2014, and Richard Kiprono Bett, whose 2:12:04 lifetime best came in Zurich in 2014.
The Ethiopian challenge will be led by Chala Adugna, who clocked a lifetime best of 2:09:42 in Hannover last year.
Italian interest will focus on Abdoullah Bamoussa who competed in the 3000m steeplechase at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and will make his marathon debut. He clocked a steeplechase lifetime best of 8:32.54 at the European Championships in July.
Some prominent sport names like Ivan Basso, twice winner of the Giro d’Italia bicyle race, and former Italian rugby team star Mauro Bergamasco, are expected to run their first marathon in Venice on Sunday.
No less than 6000 runners from 90 countries are entered to run on the traditional course from Villa Pisani in Stra, a small town around 25 km far from Venice, to the finish on the Riva dei Sette Martiri near the city’s Saint Mark’s Square.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF