Peter Kirui leading the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon (© VIctah Sailer for Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon)
The Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon has made a name for itself in recent years thanks to a series of super-fast performances and the organisers are naturally keen to maintain this success at the next edition of the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Saturday 28 March.
A superb field has been assembled, led by a handful of top Kenyans. Defending champion Peter Kirui will face Geoffrey Mutai and Leonard Komon while the leading contenders in the women’s race are Edna Kiplagat and Lucy Kabuu.
“I believe we’ve assembled a very strong field,” said Jana Moberly, who is responsible for putting together the elite field in Prague.
“At present we have seven runners with personal bests under one hour on the start list and nine women who have run faster than 70 minutes. But it’s very likely that we’ll have one or two additions,” explained Moberly, who added that she hopes for a men’s winning time, “very close to 59 minutes.”
Several runners look capable of achieving such a time, which is not far off the Prague course record of 58:47.
One of them is definitely Peter Kirui. The 27-year-old Kenyan dominated the race last year to complete a surprise win in 59:22.
Last year, Kirui was actually in the middle of a training course with the Kenyan Police and unable to train properly but he is free of such duties now and it will be fascinating to see if he can improve further. Another who caused a surprise in the Czech Republic last year was Geoffrey Ronoh.
The 32-year-old triumphed firstly in the Mattoni Olomouc Half Marathon, where he was originally entered as a pacemaker but left marathon stars Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto in his wake.
A few weeks later, Ronoh also won the Birell Prague Grand Prix over 10km in a course record of 27:28.
Geoffrey Mutai was among those beaten in the Czech capital on that occasion and Mutai will again face Ronoh in Prague, whose best for the half marathon is 59:45.
Mutai, known worldwide for his victories in the Boston, New York and Berlin marathons, has a best of 58:58 which makes him the fastest man in the field. Leonard Komon is another big name in the field.
The Kenyan is the world record holder for 10km and 15km on the roads. A year ago he ran an extraordinary debut for the half marathon in Berlin, winning in 59:11, the fastest ever by a newcomer to the distance.
Four consecutive course records are proof of the upward trend in the women’s race in recent years.
In 2014, Joyce Chepkirui brought that time down to 1:06:19, the fifth fastest time ever run for the distance. Given that high standard, breaking the course record this year will be no easy task but with Lucy Kabuu, the race has a contender who has actually run faster than Chepkirui.
Two years ago the Kenyan won the Ras Al Khaimah event in the United Arab Emirates in 1:06:09. Among Kabuu’s rivals in the Czech capital will be Edna Kiplagat.
The Kenyan, winner of the IAAF World Championships marathon title in 2011 and 2013, has a personal best of 1:07:41.
Two more runners with best times under 68 minutes will be on the start line in Prague, Kenya’s Lineth Chepkurui (1:07:47) and Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa (1:07:49).
Organisers for the IAAF