Luka Chelimo Kipkemboi wins the 2013 Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (© Organisers)
The Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore has assembled an impressive elite field which includes no less than 13 men who have personal best times under 2:10 and there is quiet optimism in some quarters that such a mark can be achieved for the first time at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday (7).
However, heat and humidity have often played their part in keeping the winning times in Singapore at a modest level by the standards of major marathons, and this year’s weather conditions are expected to be quite oppressive, which may mean that a sub-2:10 performance is perhaps a step too far this year.
Nevertheless, such is the depth of talent in the 30th edition of the event, which was founded in 1982, that the course record of 2:11:25, set in 2009 by Kenya’s Luke Kibet, could still be under threat.
Kibet, the 2007 world champion in the marathon, is one of three former Singapore champions to return to this year’s race but the has not run under 2:12 since that race five years ago and so is not being thought of as a likely winner.
Instead, many people are pointing to the credentials of Ethiopia’s Abrha Milaw Asefa, who ran a personal best of 2:07:46 when finishing seventh in Dubai at the start of this year, his last international race over any distance.
If Milaw Asefa crosses the line first, he will also end a run of Kenyan success in 12 successive men’s races that stretches back to 2002.
Another man being tipped to do well is Kenya’s Samuel Maswai, whose best of 2:08:52 came in the 2013 Berlin Marathon and he returned to the German capital in September and clocked 2:10:18.
Kenneth Mungara, the 2010 Singapore champion and the fastest man in the field with a best of 2:07:36 from the 2011 Prague Marathon, is still running well at the age of 41. Little more than a year ago, he ran 2:11:40 at altitude to win the Nairobi Marathon.
The 2013 Singapore champion, Luka Kipkemboi Chelimo, also returns to defend the title that he somewhat surprisingly won last year in 2:15:00.
What perhaps takes Chelimo slightly out of the reckoning among the pundits this time around is that this is his fourth marathon of the year and has not broken 2:16 in any of his previous three outings in 2014, so there is a question mark over how fit he currently is.
Another Kenyan who could threaten but over whom there is uncertainty over his current shape is Jairus Chanchima, who had two good races in Korea in 2012, including a personal best of 2:07:46 in the Seoul Marathon, but who has not been quite in that sort of form in the last 18 months.
Kibor and Chirchir looking to triumph again
Men who have already tasted victory over the classic distance this year include Kenya’s Will Kibor, who won the Cape Town Marathon in 2:10:45 and who has a best of 2:08:32, and his in-form compatriot Henry Chirchir, who won the Hannover Marathon in 2:11:40 in April, was second behind Kibor in Cape Town, and who has a best of 2:09:24.
The women’s race also has some outstanding runners, not least Ethiopia’s Netsanet Achamo, who can boast of a best of 2:24:12 in last year’s Ottawa Marathon.
Acamo potentially could end up duelling for the title with her compatriot Misikir Mekonnen, who has a best of 2:25:21. However, she also finished third in Shanghai just over a month ago in 2:29:03 so may not have full recovered from that race.
Other women who could be a factor include Kenya’s Beatrice Torotich, who ran her best of 2:27:41 two years ago in Hamburg, and Russia’s 37-year-old 2009 Singapore champion Albina Mayorova, who ran 2:23:52 in 2012 but also clocked 2:28:18 in the Tokyo Marathon earlier this year.
Everything points towards the women’s course record of 2:31:55, set by Kenya’s Salina Kosgei in 2006, possibly being challenged despite the weather conditions.
Organisers expect a total of around 53,000 runners to take to the streets of the sovereign city state on Sunday, taking part in both the marathon and the associated 10km event.
The most illustrious participant in the shorter race will be Ethiopian distance running legend Haile Gebrselassie, who is running in Singapore for the first time.
"When you run in a race like this, it is more than running. It is to celebrate and run outside. I have never been in this course and in this weather," Gebrselassie told local media on Friday.
The temperatures are expected to be in the high 20s during the race, despite a 5am start local time, and but some showers are expected despite the fact that the humidity is still expected to stay close to 80%.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF