Gilbert Kirwa winning the Vienna City Marathon 2009 (© Victah Sailer)
Kenyan sub-2:07 runners Gilbert Kirwa and Henry Sugut will start the Asics Florence Marathon as the favourites for IAAF Bronze Label road race on Sunday (26).
Kirwa set the fastest time of his career in Frankfurt in 2009 with 2:06:14. He also clocked two more sub-2:07 times during his career in Seoul – 2:06:44 in 2014 and 2:06:59 in 2010 – and a 2:07:44 in Paris in 2015. But the last marathon he completed was two years ago in Toronto as he failed to finish in Prague last year in what was his sole marathon attempt of 2016.
Kirwa will take on Sugut, who won the Vienna Marathon in 2010, 2011 and 2013 and set his lifetime best of 2:06:58 in the Austrian capital in 2012.
Other major contenders for top-three places are Silas Cheboit, who set his personal best of 2:07:15 in Gongju in 2014 but arrives in Florence with a season’s best of 2:16:43, and Silas Limo, who clocked his personal best of 2:08:54 in Gold Coast in 2015.
Ethiopia’s Teshome Shumi Yadete won last year’s edition in 2:11:57, while the course record of 2:08:40 is held by Kenyan James Kutto, who won in 2006.
Italian hopes will be carried by 2011 European under-23 10,000m silver medallist
National 10,000m champion and 2011 European under-23 silver medallist Ahmed El Mazoury carries Italian hopes in what will be his marathon debut. Liberato Pellecchia, who set a personal best of 2:14:28 in 2013, is also expected to be among the top Italian finishers.
Dire Tune is the stand-out name in the women’s race. The Ethiopian won the 2008 Boston Marathon and finished 15th in the marathon at the Olympics later that year, then went on the break the world record for one hour on the track in 2009. She set a marathon PB of 2:23:44 in 2010 but hasn’t raced since the 2011 World Championships.
Viola Jelagat should also pose a challenge, but the Kenyan will be competing just one month after setting a marathon PB of 2:26:51 so may not be completely fresh.
In recent years victories in this race have been shared between Kenyan and Ethiopian runners, but the last Kenyan double was 12 years ago.
The race starts and finishes in the central Piazza Santa Croce and will run on a fascinating but challenging course that passes through Florence’s historic city centre.
More than 10,000 registered runners from more than 80 countries and 2000 more participants for the 2km Ginky Family Run have entered the Tuscan race, which has become the second most popular marathon in Italy. It’s the fifth time in its 34 editions that the Florence Asics Marathon has registered more than 10,000 runners.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF