Shuko Genemo will return to defend her title at the 34th Vienna City Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on 23 April.
The Ethiopian youngster caused a surprise when she took Austria’s most prestigious road running event with a personal best of 2:24:31 despite very strong winds in 2016.
After her triumph in Vienna last April, Genemo didn't return to racing until January's Dubai Marathon, where she finished seventh with 2:28:16. Running another marathon a little more than three months later might look close, but Genemo had exactly the same schedule last year, when she won the Mumbai Marathon in January clocking 2:27:50 before her triumph in Vienna where she improved her personal best by more than three minutes and clocked the second fastest time in race history.
"It was cold and windy, which made it difficult to run fast," she said after last year's race. "In perfect conditions I could have run 2:22."
Anything faster than 2:23:47 would produce a huge smile on the faces of the organisers, a time which would mark a new course record. While the men’s record was improved a couple of times in the past ten years and now stands at 2:05:41, the women’s mark has survived since 2000 when Italy’s Maura Viceconte clocked 2:23:47.
"This year we will have a compact women’s field again," explained Race Director Wolfgang Konrad. "The athletes want to run good times. I hope that they push each other and then maybe the record will finally fall."
Mengistu the chief challenger
While the weather was Genemo's most difficult opponent a year ago, this time it may well be her experienced compatriot Meseret Mengistu, who owns a personal best of 2:23:26 from her victory at the 2015 Paris Marathon, a performance faster than Vienna’s race record.
The race in the French capital was part of Mengistu’s remarkable success streak: since 2014 she's run six marathons, winning five. Once inspired by watching Derartu Tulu and Haile Gebrselassie's races on television --the Ethiopian legend is a three-time winner of the Vienna Half Marathon - she'll compete in Austria for the first time. She began the year with victory at the Xiamen Marathon in January in 2:25:58.
Among the challengers the Ethiopian pair will face include Kenyans Rebecca Chesire and Angela Tanui. Both showed promising form in last Sunday’s Rome Ostia half marathon, with Tanui finishing second in 1:07:43 while Chesire, who holds a marathon best of 2:25:22, finished fourth in 1:09:01. Tanui, who has a 1:07:16 lifetime best in the half marathon, will make her debut over the full distance in Vienna.
The strongest European challenge may come from Italy’s Emma Quaglia. The 36-year-old has a notable record in major championships, finishing sixth at the 2013 World Championships and 14th at the European Championships a year later. Quaglia clocked her personal best of 2:28:15 in Torino in 2012.
Organisers for the IAAF