Brigid Kosgei winning the Chicago Marathon (AFP/Getty Images) © Copyright
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Weekend road preview: Farah and Kosgei in Chicago spotlight, Chepkirui returns to action in Durban

The IAAF Label calendar picks up this weekend with several key road races taking place across four continents, including the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, the FNB Durban 10k and the 20km de Paris.

 

Farah and Kosgei primed for title defence in Chicago

Mo Farah and Brigid Kosgei will be the centre of attention at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday (13) as the pair return to defend their titles at this IAAF Gold Label road race.

Farah impressed in Chicago last year, taking the win in 2:05:11, a personal best in his first victory over the distance. He was fifth in London in April clocking 2:05:39 and arrives in the Windy City on the back of a 59:07 victory at the Great North Run half marathon on 8 September.

He'll face a daunting task in his defence attempt, facing four men who have covered the distance in under 2:05: Kenyans Lawrence Cherono and Dickson Chumba and Ethiopians Asefe Mengstu and Seifu Tura.

Cherono, 31, clocked his 2:04:06 lifetime best en route to his victory in Amsterdam the year before last. He also won his most recent marathon, Boston in April, when he kicked to a solid 2:07:57 victory. A fierce competitor, Cherono has won four of his last five marathons.

Chumba, 32, set his 2:04:32 best in Chicago’s 2014 edition and was third in Tokyo this year in 2:08:44, his most recent marathon.

Mengstu meanwhile has, along with Cherono, the fastest PB in the field. He ran nearly as fast in Dubai in January where he was third in 2:04:24 and most recently, clocked 2:07:25 to finish second in April's Paris Marathon. 

Tura, 24, didn't finish in Tokyo earlier this year but has a 2:04:44 best set in Dubai last year. Most recently, he clocked 59:16 in a half marathon in Buenos Aires in August, finishing second.

The local focus will be on Galen Rupp, the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist, who makes his first marathon appearance since undergoing heel surgery in late 2018. Rupp won in Chicago in 2017, the same year he finished second in Boston, and was fifth in Chicago in 2018, clocking 2:06:21, not far from his 2:06:07 lifetime best set in Prague in May 2018.

Others to watch include Kenyan Bedan Karoki, who has a 2:06:48 lifetime best and Belgian Bashir Abdi, one of Farah's training partners, who clocked 2:07:03 in London in April, his second marathon.

 

Mo Farah winning the Chicago Marathon (Getty Images)Mo Farah winning the Chicago Marathon (Getty Images) © Copyright

 

In the women's race the focus falls firmly on Kosgei, at the moment the finest marathoner on the planet.

The 25-year-old Kenyan won in Chicago last year in 2:18:35 and returned to London in April to move up a notch from her 2018 finish there to take that title as well with a 2:18:20 lifetime best, moving up to No. 7 all-time. Kosgei ran a sensational 1:04:28 at the Great North Run on 8 September, suggesting that she could be in form to challenge the 2:17:18 course record set by Paula Radcliffe way back in 2002.

Leading the charge to upend Kosgei's ambitions are Ethiopians Gelete Burka, the Paris Marathon champion, and Ababel Yeshaneh, and US star Jordan Hasay.

Burka, a name that's been familiar to distance running fans for more than a decade-and-a-half, has evolved from a strong 1500m runner --Burka raced to world indoor gold over the distance in 2008-- to one of the world's best marathoners. Now 33, Burka has recent wins in Ottawa (2018) and Paris (2019) to her credit along with a solid 2:20:45 career best set in Dubai last year.

Yeshaneh, 29, has a 2:24:02 lifetime best set in Tokyo earlier this year but ran significantly faster in her victory in Dubai last year, where she clocked 2:20:16 on a course that was determined to be about 200 metres short.

Hasay, 28, set her 2:20:57 career best in Chicago two years ago where she finished third. She also has a pair of third place finishes in Boston to her credit, clocking 2:23:00 in 2017 and 2:25:20 earlier this year. She tuned up at a half marathon in Philadelphia on 15 September clocking 1:12:35.

Others in the hunt for a top-five spot include Kenyan Betsy Saina, the 2018 Paris Marathon winner in 2:22:56, while rising US stars Laura Thweatt, who has a 2:25:38 best and 2018 US champion Emma Bates, with a 2:28:19 career best, will be looking for a strong breakout performance. 

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF

 

Red hot Chepkirui leads strong women's field at Durban 10km

Strong fields will gather for the FNB Durban 10k CitySurfRun, an IAAF Bronze Label road race, in the South African port city on Sunday (13).

 

Sheila Chepkirui breaks 30 minutes at the Birell Prague 10k (Organisers)Sheila Chepkirui breaks 30 minutes at the Birell Prague 10k (Organisers) © Copyright

 

Four women who will toe the start line have broken 32 minutes for the distance: Sheila Chepkirui is one of just three women who have ever broken the 30-minute barrier. The 28-year-old joined that exclusive club in Prague last month where she clocked 29:57 to become the second fastest woman over the distance. The Kenyan is expected to set a fast pace from the outset on the fast and flat course of Durban.

Stella Chesang, who clocked 31:14 to take the Durban victory last year, returns to defend her title just two weeks after her 10,000m appearance at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.

Another fast entrant is Kenyan Evaline Chirchir, the 21-year-old who ran 30:43 in Valencia in January, the eighth fastest time of the year.

Ethiopia’s Bone Cheluke and Kenyan Polline Wanjiku, late entrants, could also be a factor. Cheluke, 21, clocked 31:48 at the Oelder Sparkassen Citylauf on 8 June to finish second in her first road 10km. Wanjiku, also 21, boasts a noteworthy 54:59 best for 10 miles, 1:08:20 for the half marathon and a 32:10 for 10km.

Kenyan William Sitonik will also be among the key men to watch in the men's race.

A world youth 3000m champion in 2011, Sitonik, now 25, has since collected sub-27 minute 10,000m credentials on the track. In March he improved his half marathon lifetime best to 1:00:47 in Azpeitia, Spain.

One of the favourites in the men's race is Stephen Kissa who is targeting a sub 27-minute clocking. Sitonik says he's up for the challenge.

“I am not coming to Durban on holiday,” says Sitonik. “The race has developed a reputation for being fast, and if Stephen (Kissa) is looking to run that fast, then I will need to bring my best form and give him a challenge.”

Meanwhile their compatriot Wilfred Kimitei comes armed with a 28:02 10km best from 2016 and a quick 59:40 half marathon best set in Ras Al Khaimah in 2018.

Organisers and Bob Ramsak for the IAAF

 

Girma prepared for Changzhou defence

Reigning champion Taye Girma of Ethiopia will return to the Chinese city of Changzhou eyeing to retain his title at the 2019 Changzhou West Taihu Lake Half Marathon, an IAAF bronze label road race, on Sunday (13).

The 23-year-old Girma scored a 1:03:04 victory to set the course record in the southeastern city last October, one month before achieving his personal best of 1:00:55 when taking top honours in Boulogne-Billancourt.

Most recently, the 2018 Ethiopian national 10,000m champion clocked 1:02:52 to finish ninth at the Venloop Half Marathon in March. 

Girma’s countryman Asefa Tefera is the fastest entrant on paper with a PB of 1:00:07 set in his runner-up finish in Istanbul last year. Although the 22-year-old was only 18th in February’s Ras Al Khaimah half in 1:02:44, he improved his marathon career best to 2:07:56 at the Lake Biwa Marathon one month later in Japan.

Kenya’s Edwin Kiptoo, 31, also improved his marathon PB this year, clocking 2:10:17 to finish fourth in Madrid. Kiptoo has not won any half marathon title since his victory at the Zwolle Half Marathon in 2013, but managed to improved his life-time best time to 1:00:11 in 2015 and claimed the Beirut Marathon title with 2:13:14 the following year. 

The field also includes Derara Hurisa of Ethiopia, a 1:01:45 performer who has already run two half marathon races this year in Paris and Kiev, finishing second on both occasions. 

With the absence of defending champion and course record holder Hosea Kiprotich Rutto, Kenya’s Mercy Kibarus will be the top returnee in the women’s race.

The 35-year-old Kibarus clocked 1:12:56 to finish second in Changzhou last year, falling eight seconds behind Rutto’s course record and more than four minutes shy of her personal best of 1:08:18 set back in 2013 at the Roma-Ostia Half Marathon.

Kibarus clocked 1:08:42 to finish fifth at the 2014 World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen and has yet to run a half marathon race so far in 2019.

The 23-year-old Zinash Mekonnen could be the biggest threat to Kibarus on Sunday. The rising Ethiopia set her half marathon PB of 1:08:30 last March in Valencia and improved her career best over the classic distance to 2:25:42 in Seoul this year.

Etagegn Woldu, also from Ethiopia, is another sub-70 minutes runner toeing the line. The 23-year-old cut a figure early on the international stage, finishing third in the U20 race at the 2015 World Cross Country Championships. Last year she set a half marathon PB of 1:09:22 to finish fifth in Istanbul, one month after taking a 1:11:27 victory in Lisbon.

Vincent Wu for the IAAF

 

New champions to be crowned at Paris 20km

Frenchmen Florian Carvalho and Hassan Chahdi and Felicien Muhitira of Rwanda look to be the favourites at the Paris 20 km, an IAAF Silver Label road race, whose 41st edition will be held on Sunday (13).

With no previous winner on the start line, the 2019 edition will crown new champions in both races.

Carvalho and Chahdi, both in the build-up for their upcoming appearances at the Valencia Marathon on 1 December, should be at the front. Their goal will be to succeed Morhad Amdouni, the last French winner of the race who took the title in 2016.

Chadhi finished third in 59:51 last year, 1:38 behind winner Samuel Tsegay of Eritrea. Chahdi’s best 2019 performance was a marathon personal best of 2:09:55 set in Seville in February.

Carvalho also set a new marathon best this year, clocking 2:12:53 in Paris. He also clocked 29:00 over 10km in June, finishing 1:42 ahead of Chadhi, who is expected to be in better shape on Sunday.

Muhitira should have a role to play. The Rwandan was runner-up at last year’s edition, finishing 12 seconds adrift of Tsegay. He should have been the favourite but he finished a distant 22nd in the marathon at the World Championships one week ago (2:16:21). The speed of his recovery will be a key factor in Sunday’s race.

Nicolas Navarro, who improved his marathon PB this year to 2:11:53 will also be in the running for the podium, as well as Haile Ibrahimov of Azerbaijan.

Other French runners expected to contend include marathoner Benjamin Malaty and Michael Gras. Evans Kiprop Cheruiyot set the men’s course record of 57:19 back to 2005.

On the women’s side, the defending champion Ophélie Claude-Boxberger, who competed in the 3000m steeplechase in Doha, won’t defend her title. 

In her absence Susan Kipsang Jeptoo appears to be one the main favourite. She has a 32:14 10km season’s best in 2019. Liv Westphal, third last year, should be her main rival.  

Chaltu Negasa, who knows the race well, Kenyan Joyline Koima as well as French runners Samira Mezeghrane Saad and Alice Finot, who finished fourth and fifth respectively, last year, should be in the running for the podium. Not to be discounted is Mekdes Woldu from Eritrea. 

The women’s course record is held by Kenya’s Rose Chelimo, who ran 1:05:01 in 2014. 

About 30,000 runners are expected to enter the race on Sunday. 

Quentin Guillon for the IAAF