Ethiopia’s Mekuant Ayenew returns to the Chinese capital aiming to regain the title he took three years ago at the CFLD Beijing Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race, on Sunday (3).
The 28-year-old Ayenew, who set his 2:09:00 PB at the 2017 Prague Marathon, clocked 2:11:09 to earn his first international marathon victory in 2016 at the most prestigious road running race in China, which was first launched in 1981.
It will be Ayenew’s third appearance in Beijing as he also finished seventh with 2:15:16 two years ago. His familiarity of the course, which starts at the landmark Ti’anmen Square and ends outside the Olympic Stadium, will be a big advantage for Ayenew. But retaining the title will not be an easy task as Ayenew will face a quality field that includes several sub 2:05 runners.
Fellow Ethiopian Endeshaw Negesse is the fastest man on paper with a personal best of 2:04:52 set in Dubai back in 2013. Negesse came close to that mark two years later when he won in Tokyo with 2:06:00, but his only race since then was a 17th-place finish in Dubai in 2:26:27.
Kenya’s Mathew Kipkoech Kisorio, meanwhile, is a serious title contender in Beijing. The 30-year-old improved his PB to 2:04:53 last year when he finished third in Valencia and clocked 2:06:36 to finish second at the Paris Marathon last April.
The men’s field also includes Bazu Worku of Ethiopia, a three-time winner of the Houston Marathon with a PB of 2:05:25, as well as Kenyan duo Evans Korir and Solomon Kirwa Yego, who both have sub-2:07 career-best times and both have broken 2:08 in 2019.
Mulu Seboka of Ethiopia is the fastest entrant in the women’s field. The 35-year-old owns a PB of 2:21:56, set in Dubai in 2015, and has won three straight races in China since 2018 with two victories in Dalian and one in Shenzhen. She clocked 2:27:19 in May to retain her title in Dalian.
Compatriots Sutume Asefa and Letebrhan Haylay are also among the favourites. With a best of 2:24:00, Asefa is the slightly quicker of the two women but is yet to win a marathon, while Haylay set a PB of 2:24:47 to break the course record at the Dongying Yellow River Marathon last year.
Kenya’s 2018 Daegu Marathon champion Janet Jelagat Rono, a 2:26:03 performer at her best, is another woman to watch.
Li Zhixuan is China’s best hope for the title on Sunday. The 25-year-old is the fastest Chinese woman this year as she clocked 2:26:15 in Nagoya in March, improving her PB by more than four minutes. She will be hoping to improve on her sixth-place finish from last year.
The last time Chinese runners took the top honours at Beijing Marathon dates back to 2013, when Zhang Yingying clocked 2:31:19 to extend China’s winning streak in the women’s race to 22 years.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF
Kimutai aims to retain Istanbul Marathon title
Felix Kimutai set a course record of 2:09:57 at the Istanbul Marathon last year, but the Kenyan returns to the IAAF Gold Label road race on Sunday (3) in even better form.
The 30-year-old won the Dongying Marathon earlier this year in 2:09:23, taking more than half a minute off his previous PB set when winning in Istanbul 12 months ago. But he may need to produce another lifetime best if he is to become the first back-to-back men’s winner since 2011.
Former track specialist Yitayal Atnafu of Ethiopia is the fastest in the field, having clocking 2:07:00 in Paris last year. The 26-year-old returned to the French capital earlier this year and recorded a season’s best of 2:08:31.
Based on this year’s times, Turkey’s Polat Kemboi Arikan leads the field. The two-time European 10,000m champion set a PB of 2:08:14 in Paris back in April, finishing just ahead of Atnafu, but earlier this month he withdrew from the marathon at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.
Aside from Kimutai, two other men in the field know what it’s like to triumph in Istanbul. 2016 winner Evans Kiplagat of Azerbaijan and 2015 champion Elias Chelimo – both sub-2:08 performers at their best – return to the Turkish city. Kiplagat also recently withdrew from the World Championships marathon, while Chelimo has a season’s best of 2:11:41, set in Hong Kong.
Fellow Kenyans Cosmas Birech, Joseph Aperumoi and Hillary Kipchumba all have PBs inside 2:09 and so have the ability to contend for a podium finish. And watch out for Bahrain’s Abdi Ali Gelchu and Ethiopia’s Musa Babo, who have been in PB form this year, clocking 2:09:44 and 2:09:55 respectively.
Three pacemakers will lead the field through 30km on schedule for a 2:09 finish, so it’s possible that Kimutai’s course record could fall on Sunday.
Visiline Jepkesho has the strongest credentials of the entrants in the women’s race. The 29-year-old has the fastest PB (2:21:37) and season’s best (2:22:58) and outside of major championships has finished in the top four in all of her marathons to date.
But Jepkesho, who represented Kenya at the 2016 Olympics, contested the marathon at the World Championships just five weeks ago, finishing a respectable 15th in 2:46:38, so she may not be at her freshest on Sunday.
Merima Mohammed’s PB of 2:23:06 was set back in 2010, but the Bahraini runner is still highly competitive. She has a season’s best of 2:27:34 and won the Jilin Marathon in June.
Ethiopian duo Hirut Tibebu and Fatuma Sado are also expected to challenge. Tibebu finished second in Seoul in March, beating Mohammed and coming within 30 seconds of her PB with 2:24:05. Sado, meanwhile, is a 2:24:16 performer at her best and will be keen to improve on her third-place finish from Istanbul last year.
Three other women in the field head to Istanbul off the back of recent lifetime bests. Kenya’s Angela Tanui and Maurine Chepkemoi clocked respective PBs of 2:25:37 and 2:26:16 in Vienna seven months ago, while Ethiopia’s Sifan Melaku ran a PB of 2:26:46 in Seville in February.
The pacemaker in the women’s race will aim to put the leading athletes on schedule for a 2:21 finish.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
Some and Kimutai the favourites at Hangzhou Marathon
Peter Kmeli Some of Kenya and Bahrain’s Marius Kimutai will start as favourites at the Hangzhou Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race, on Sunday (3).
The 29-year-old Some is the fastest entrant with a personal best of 2:05:38 set when winning the 2013 Paris Marathon. He came close to that mark last year when clocking 2:06:49 to finish third in Daegu. It will be Some’s second race in China following his 2:14:49 victory in Shenzhen two years ago.
Kimutai, 26, has also been triumphant in China. The 2:05:47 performer claimed the 2014 Danzhou Marathon title and more recently took the top honours at the Taiyuan International Marathon two months ago with a clocking of 2:09:43.
It will be Kimutai’s third race in China this year and his eyes may not be only set on the top podium but also on the course record of 2:10:33 achieved by Azmeraw Bekele of Ethiopia two years ago.
Kenya’s Sylvester Kimeli Teimet will be running his third straight race in Hangzhou after finishing fourth and fifth in the past two years. The 35-year-old set his lifetime best of 2:06:49 when winning in Seoul back in 2010 and has threatened the 2:10 barrier this season with a sixth-place finish at the Wuxi Marathon where he clocked 2:10:44.
The field also includes Evans Sambu of Kenya, who set his PB of 2:09:05 in 2017 and finished fourth last year in Hangzhou with 2:11:17, and Abraham Kiprotich of France.
Agnes Jeruto Barsosio of Kenya is the star attraction in the women’s race. The 37-year-old has earned podium finishes in eight consecutive marathons since October 2014, including recording a PB of 2:20:59 to finish second in Paris two years ago.
It will be Barsosio’s first race in Hangzhou but she has experience of running in China, including winning at the Guangzhou Marathon in 2014.
Barsosio’s compatriot Rael Kiyara Nguriatukei, 35, is another title contender. She set her PB of 2:25:23 when finishing fourth in Eindhoven in 2011 and has previously won marathons in Shanghai, Lanzhou, Chongqing, Luxembourg and, most recently, the Taipei Wan Jin Shi Marathon in last March.
Nastassia Ivanova of Belarus also has the credentials to make an impact, bringing a 2:27:24 lifetime best to the start line. The 36-year-old came close to her PB when clocking 2:27:49 to finish fifth at the European Championships in Berlin last year.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF