The leaders in the early stages of the 2013 Lodz Marathon (© Organisers)
Organisers of the 2014 Lodz Marathon Dbam o Zdrowie have made their intentions clear by signing up five men with personal bests of under 2:10 to attack the 12 month old course record of 2:10:02, held by Ethiopia’s Alemayehu Belachew Ameta, at the 10th edition of the Polish race on Sunday (13).
In 2013, Belachew Ameta triumphed by just two seconds from Kenya’s Stephen Kibiwot and the pair will duel once again at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, which became Poland’s first IAAF Label Rood Race last September.
Kibiwot, now 34 and fourth at the 2008 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in his only major international championship, can boast of a personal best of 2:07:54 but that dates from five years ago in Prague.
The Kenyan has never quite fulfilled his promise over the classic distance after some impressive half marathon times earlier in his career.
Consequently, Balechew Ameta has the role of arguably being the slight favourite despite, on paper, being almost two minutes slower as he improved his personal best of 2:09:50 in Dubai three months ago.
Eritrea’s Yared Dagnaw Sharew has a personal best of 2:08:13, but that was also more than three years ago at the 2010 Marathon Eindhoven and he has not broken 2:10 in any of his other 10 marathons.
Perhaps a more realistic threat to the leading pair of Belachew Ameta and Kibiwot is another Ethiopian, Haile Haja Gemeda, who clocked his best of 2:08:35 when finishing fourth just over 12 months ago at the 2013 Rome Marathon.
Gemeda Haja will also be motivated to bounce back after his disappointing showing at his last marathon, in Dubai in January, when he could only finish a modest 22nd in 2:17:28.
The fifth man on the elite start list who has gone under 2:10 is Kenya’s Peter Kurui, who ran 2:08:56 in the 2011 Turin Marathon but who has not been under 2:10 since.
Leading the way for the local runners is 2005 European junior 3000m steeplechase champion Marcin Chebowski.
Chebowski has not run a marathon for almost two years but will be looking to improve on his best of 2:10:07 from his last outing, at the 2012 Dusseldorf Marathon, and could also stand a chance of being a rare European winner in a top class race on the continent.
Along with Chebowski, also guaranteed big cheers will be Karolina Jarzynska, the Polish record holder in the half marathon.
She won in Lodz last year when she set what was then a personal best and course record of 2:26:45 and then improved to 2:26:31 when finishing third in Osaka in January.
Jarzynska is aiming to improve on Małgorzata Sobanska's ratified national record of 2:26:08 which has stood since 2001, although Wanda Panfil clocked 2:24:18 to win the 1991 Boston Marathon, just a few months before she took the gold medal at the 1991 IAAF World Championships.
Around 6000 runners are expected to take part in the marathon and associated events, including a 10km.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF