Kenya's Micah Kogo en route to victory in the men's race (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
Preview Houilles, France

Kogo seeking fourth victory in Houilles

The Corrida Pedestre Internationale de Houilles has almost become an annual fixture on Micah Kogo’s racing calendar. Since his first appearance at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race in 2006, the Kenyan has competed there every year, apart from 2009.

Kogo won the 10km race three times between 2006 and 2008 and he finished second in 2010 and 2012. His lowest finish was in 2011 when he was fourth. The 27-year-old has a PB of 27:01, but his best in Houilles was his 27:48 run in 2010 when finishing second to Imane Merga, who set the course record of 27:47.

This year, however, the former world record-holder for the distance is keen to return to the winner’s step of the podium on Sunday (29) in Houilles, a commune just a few miles outside Paris.

For Kogo, 2013 has been all about his move up to the marathon. He finished second in his debut in Boston in 2:10:27, then smashed that mark with 2:06:56 when finishing fourth in a high-quality race in Chicago.

Outside of the classic distance, he is undefeated in other races this year, winning over 10km in Cape Elizabeth and at the Falmouth Road Race.

But memories of his defeat last year are still fresh in Kogo’s head. On that occasion he was out-sprinted in the final stages by Ethiopia’s Berhanu Legesse as both were given the same time of 28:23.

Legesse won’t be defending his title, but the field is still packed with talent. Kogo’s Kenyan compatriot Emmanuel Bett is in strong form this winter, having won the Great South Run by a huge margin and finishing a close second against a loaded field at the Cross de Atapuerca last month.

Bett also set a 10km PB of 28:23 this year. Although it is 19 seconds slower than Kogo’s season’s best, Bett has beaten Kogo twice before on the track. One more win over his younger team-mate will bring their career record to three apiece.

Other Kenyans in the field include track specialist Cornelius Kangogo, marathon world junior record-holder Erick Ndiema, US-based Shadrack Kosgei, and recent Casablanca Marathon winner Milton Rotich, who finished seventh in Houilles last year.

Also lining up will be Eritrean teenager Dawit Weldesilasie and young Ugandan talents Solomon Mutai and Phillip Kipyeko.

The domestic challenge will be led by world steeplechase finalist Yoann Kowal, half marathon national record-holder Abdelatif Meftah, and El Hassane Ben Lkhainouch, the highest French finisher in Houilles last year.

But while Kogo remains the favourite, even a fourth victory would leave him well short of Khalid Skah’s record in this race. Skah, the 1992 Olympic 10,000m champion from Morocco, notched up eight wins in Houilles between 1988 and 1997.

Other former winners include legendary Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie and former world champions Benjamin Limo and Jaouad Gharib.

One place higher than 2012 the aim for Godfay

Ethiopia’s Afera Godfay finished second to compatriot Ruti Aga in the women’s race in Houilles last year. With Aga not returning for the 2013 edition, this could be Godfay’s opportunity to record her first career 10km victory.

Twelve months ago, Godfay smashed her PB in Houilles with 31:52. Competing over the same distance on the track this year, the 22-year-old took more than three minutes off her 10,000m best with 31:08.23 when finishing second to Meseret Defar in her world-leading run in Sollentuna.

Godfay’s toughest challenger could be fellow Ethiopian Worknesh Degefa, who finished third in Houilles last year before going on to set a big PB of 1:07:49 at the Rome-Ostia Half Marathon in March this year.

Morocco’s 2012 national 5000m champion Rkia El Moukim will also be difficult to beat. A 1:10:38 half-marathon performer, El Moukim has competed in Houilles for the past three years, finishing fourth on two occasions. The 25-year-old will be keen to make the podium for the first time.

Portugal’s Marisa Barros is also familiar with the streets of Houilles, having finished in the top five at this race for the past three years. She will be joined by fellow marathon specialist Rosaria Console of Italy.

Lauranne Picoche was the top French finisher at last year’s race and she will be hoping to repeat that feat on Sunday. The vastly experienced Christine Bardelle, who has set PBs on the track this year at age 39, is also expected to be one of the top domestic finishers.

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF