Marius Kimutai winning the Rotterdam Marathon (© AFP)
Marius Kimutai of Kenya will lead a deep field at the Chongqing Marathon aiming to attack the course record of the IAAF Gold Label road race on Sunday (31).
The men’s course record belongs to Ethiopia’s 2017 winner Afewerk Mesfin, who clocked 2:09:49 to mark the first ever sub-2:10 result since the race launched in 2011.
Nine sub-2:10 runners will line up for the top honours at the southwestern Chinese city this year and Kimutai is the fastest entrant on paper thanks to his personal best of 2:05:47 set in Amsterdam in 2016.
He came close to that mark two years ago when he clocked a winning time of 2:06:04 in Rotterdam. His only outing over the 26.2-mile distance last year was a fourth-place finish in Seoul in 2:07:45.
It will be Kimutai’s first appearance in Chongqing but his third race in China following a victory in Danzhou in 2014 and a runner-up finish in Dongying in 2016.
Ethiopia’s Gebretsadik Abraha could be the biggest challenge to Kimutai. Although his career best of 2:06:21 was set back in 2012 from his third-place finish in Amsterdam, the 26-year-old Marrakesh and Prague marathon winner has an impressively consistent record over the classic distance, registering a sub-2:10 result each year for the past seven years.
Kenyan veteran Philip Kimutai Sanga is another man to watch on Sunday. The 35-year-old has a lifetime best of 2:06:07 from the 2011 Frankfurt Marathon but has not bettered 2:10 since 2017.
The field also includes Asbel Kipsang, whose PB of 2:07:30 was set in Seoul three years ago, and Edwin Koech, a 2:08:17 performer who set the course record in Dalian last May.
The women’s field is led by Lydia Cheromei of Kenya, who will carry on the hope of breaking the long-standing 2:22:41 course record set by local runner Wang Jiali in 2012.
Although usually competing with runners just half of her age, the 41-year-old Cheromei is still highly competitive. Last December she ran 2:22:11 to finish second at the Valencia Marathon, 41 seconds shy of her PB recorded back in 2012. She also clocked 2:28:48 to win in Rabat 12 months ago and four months earlier she clocked 2:23:31 to finish as the runner-up in Shanghai.
Aberu Mekuria also competed in the Valencia Marathon last year and improved her PB by nearly one minute to finish fourth in 2:24:35. It will be the third race on Chinese soil for the 35-year-old, who won the 2016 Hengshui Lake Marathon in 2:26:07.
Flomena Chepchirchir is the second fastest on paper in the field with a PB of 2:23:00 set in Frankfurt in 2013. But the 37-year-old Kenyan is struggling to return to her best form in recent years as her best performance last year was a sixth-place finish in Prague in 2:32:10.
While Chepchirchir is contesting the race for the first time, China’s He Yinli will be returning to familiar territory as it was in Chongqing that she registered her PB 2:27:35 in 2015 to take the second finish. Last year she also managed to step on the podium here with a third finish in 2:35:05.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF
Polish all-comers' records the target Warsaw
Sub-60-minute runners Peter Kirui and Gilbert Masai are the headliners in the elite men’s field for the PZU Warsaw Half Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label road race, on Sunday (31), while Naomi Jebet will start as favourite in the women race.
Masai has bettered the one-hour barrier three times in his career, with a best of 59:31 from Copenhagen in 2016. The following year he won in Berlin with 59:57, and he ended the 2018 season with a best of 1:00:16 from Venlo. Making his debut on Polish roads at the age of 37, the Kenyan is the prime candidate to challenge the course and Polish all-comers’ record of 1:00:48.
Kirui has an even more impressive career record, with five sub-one-hour clockings and a personal best of 59:22, set when winning in Prague in 2014. The most recent of these performances was a win in Krems in 2016 in 59:53.
Two other Kenyan runners with a history of good performances on the Polish road circuit will also be major contenders. Hillary Maiyo, with a career best of 1:01:05 from 2017, will be running in Warsaw for the fourth consecutive year and hoping to go even better after taking fifth, fourth and third in previous editions. David Metto, a 1:02:24 man, was the winner in last autumn's Warsaw Marathon and will attempt to keep his good streak in the city going.
Another one returning to the Polish capital is El Hassan Oubaddi, the Moroccan who finished fourth in the race last year with 1:02:52 and has since improved his PB to 1:02:40 last November. Also in the field is his compatriot Jaouad Chemlal, with a 1:02:31 from Marrakech last year.
Not to be discounted is Wycliffe Biwott, the winner from Tirana in 2017 with a 1:01:18. He will be hoping to make a return to form after missing the 2018 season.
Starting as the clear favourite in the women's race is Naomi Rotich. The Kenyan comes into it off the back of a personal best of 1:08:19 in Ras Al Khaimah last month. That was her fifth career sub-1:10, with earlier ones including victories in Breda and Dronten in 2017, as well as Madrid in 2018.
Conditions permitting, Rotich looks ready to challenge the course record of 1:09:06, which is also the fastest time ever achieved on Polish soil.
The main challenge to her dominance is expected to come from fellow Kenyans Gladys Kipkoech and Naomi Vaati. Kipkoech ran 1:10:13 to win in Hamburg last year, while Vaati set her best of 1:10:17 just over a month ago in Guadalajara.
Another woman in form is Abebech Gela Mulugeta, who set a PB of 1:11:07 this year to win in Santa Pola.
Genet Gashie will be racing in Poland for the second time in two weeks after a win in Gdynia in 1:12:05, just 13 seconds off her career best. Christine Oigo, fourth in that race, will also be making an appearance. Oigo finished sixth in Warsaw a year ago with 1:11:43, not far off her best of 1:11:32.
Rounding the list of top contenders is Rkia El Moukim of Morocco with a PB of 1:11:40 set this year when she finished third in Marrakech.
Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF