Lydia Cheromei en route to her course record at the Prague Marathon (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
This year’s Volkswagen Prague Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on 12 May boasts an impressive line-up of elite runners and hopes are high that one – or even both – of the course records will be broken.
“We’ve got some top runners and, providing the weather conditions are right, we can start to think about the course records,” said Jana Moberly, elite athletes manager for the race.
Albert Matebor is the fastest athlete in the men’s race. The 32-year-old Kenyan set his personal best of 2:05:25 at the 2011 Frankfurt Marathon. That performance is 14 seconds quicker than the Prague course record set by Eliud Kiptanui in 2010.
A former winner of the Gothenburg Half Marathon, Matebor is back in top form after returning from a break and earlier this month he finished second at the Madrid Half Marathon.
His compatriots Mariko Kipchumba, winner in Reims last year with a 2:06:05 PB, and Benjamin Kiptoo, winner of the Paris in 2011 with 2:06:31, aren’t too far behind him.
Philemon Limo also features on the list of top stars and has fond memories of the Czech capital. In 2011 he won the Prague Half Marathon in 59:30, then later in the year won the Mattoni 10km – also in Prague – in a course record of 27:34. He made his Marathon debut in Prague last year, finishing third with a PB of 2:09:25, but will be keen to notch up a third big victory in his favourite city next month.
Eritrean pair Yonas Kifle (2:07:34) and Amanuel Mesel will surely also have their sights set on upstaging the Kenyan contingent. At just 22, World 5000m finalist Mesel – who recently gave current World record-holder Zersenay Tadese a run for his money at the Hervis Prague Half Marathon – will be making his Marathon debut in this race.
Cheromei leads women’s field
Everyone in Prague will look forward to welcoming the much-exalted 35-year-old Kenyan Lydia Cheromei. A teenage sensation who won the World junior cross-country title at the age of 13 before competing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics as a junior athlete, Cheromei has reinvented herself in recent years as a top marathon runner.
In 2011 she broke the course records in Prague for both the Half-marathon (67:33) and Marathon (2:22:34). Last year she improved her Marathon PB to 2:21:30 in Dubai and finished fourth at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships.
It’s also worth watching out for two other Kenyans – Caroline Rotich, winner of last month’s New York Half Marathon, and 2009 World Half-marathon silver medallist Philes Ongori, who will be competing in just her second ever Marathon after impressing on her debut in Rotterdam last year with victory in 2:24:20.
The Ethiopian squad will be made up of Koren Jelela, winner of the 2011 Toronto Marathon with a 2:22:43 PB, and Ehitu Kiros, who smashed her PB by more than 10 minutes to finish second in Dubai earlier this year in 2:23:39.
The line-up of elite runners will also include athletes from Zimbabwe, Estonia, Switzerland, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Ireland and Hungary.
Organisers for the IAAF
Albert Matebor (KEN) 2:05:25
Mariko Kipchumba (KEN) 2:06:05
Benjamin Kiptoo 2:06:31
Yonas Kifle (ERI) 2:07:34
Teshome Gelana (ETH) 2:07:37
Julius Karinga 2:08:01
Girmay Birhanu (ETH) 2:08:11
Philemon Limo (KEN) 2:09:25
Julius Lomerinyang (KEN) 2:12:13
Amanuel Mesel (ERI) debut
Lydia Cheromei (KEN) 2:21:30
Koren Jelela (ETH) 2:22:43
Caroline Rotich (KEN) 2:23:22
Ehitu Kiros (ETH) 2:23:39
Philes Ongori (KEN) 2:24:20
Azusa Nojiri (JPN) 2:24:57
Selomie Getnet (ETH) 2:25:15
Tatyana Aryasova (RUS) 2:26:13
Yulia Ruban (UKR) 2:27:10