Lonah Salpeter (r) takes a narrow victory at the Dam tot Damloop (© Vincent van den Boogaard/organisers)
European 10,000m champion Lonah Chemtai Salpeter will be in the spotlight at the 35th edition of the Asics Firenze Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race, on Sunday (25).
The 29-year-old has this year set Israeli records at various distances from the 1500m to the half marathon and she will be looking to add another to her collection this weekend.
Before winning the continental 10,000m title in Berlin, she set a European-leading national record of 31:33.03 to win the European Cup in London in May. At the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships Valencia 2018 earlier in the year she set a national record of 1:08:58 and reduced that mark to 1:07:55 in Lisbon last month.
Salpeter is yet to fully master the marathon, though. She has completed three marathons to date – her one failure to finish came at the 2016 Olympic Games – and her finishing times have all been between 2:40:16 and 2:40:22, a surprisingly consistent series of times for someone who appears capable of going much quicker for 26.2 miles.
This weekend Salpeter is aiming at improving the course record of 2:28:15 set in 2002 by Helena Javornik. She could even challenge the European-leading time of 2:25:25 set by European champion Volha Mazuronak.
Salpeter will take on Kenya’s Caroline Jepchirchir Chepkwony, who set her marathon PB of 2:27:37 in Lubljana in 2013, Ethiopia’s Ayele Gebaynesh, who has a career best of 2:26:54, and Kenya’s 2:27:07 performer Sarah Jebet.
Croatia’s ultramarathon specialist Nikolina Sustic will run her fourth Italian race this autumn after Venice, Turin and Verona. The world 100km champion set a marathon PB of 2:42:44 at the European Championships in Berlin, improved to 2:42:10 in Turin at the start of November and last week clocked 2:42:26 in Verona.
Gilbert Kipruto Kirwa, the third-place finisher in the men’s race last year, will return to Florence. The Kenyan clocked his personal best of 2:06:14 in Frankfurt back in 2009 but ran 2:07:44 as recently as 2015.
Dejene Debela and Bonsa Dida lead the Ethiopian challenge. After setting a PB of 2:07:10 in Eindhoven in 2017, Debela has won two marathons in China this year, clocking 2:11:22 in Xiamen and 2:12:08 in Beijing. Dida also set his PB last year, running 2:10:16 when winning in Madrid, and he finished second in Hong Kong in January earlier this year in 2:13:44.
Ahmed Nasef, who won the Italian marathon title in 2016 and 2017, is also in the field, while Kenya’s Abraham Kiplagat and Bahrain’s 2016 Asian U20 cross-country champion Abdi Ali Gelelchu will be making their marathon debuts.
Almost 9000 runners will take part in the second most popular Italian marathon race. Organisers will display a special sign at 13 kilometres in the Cascine Park dedicated to Fiorentina captain and national team football player Davide Astori, who tragically died in his sleep in March at the age of 31 due to a cardiac arrest. 13 was his shirt number.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF