Mare Dibaba in the marathon at the Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
With fields boasting 14 men who have dipped under 2:10 and ten women with sub-2:25 credentials, the Frankfurt Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, will welcome its strongest fields ever during its 37th running on Sunday (28).
In the men's race, Frankfurt will feature a contest between two previous runners-up, setting Ethiopian Kelkile Gezahegn against the Kenyan Martin Kosgey. Gezahegn ran 2:06:56 in Frankfurt for second place last year and then improved to 2:05:56 for third place in Rotterdam in the spring. Kosgey menwhile ran his PB of 2:07:22 to finish second in the 2016 edition.
"I have prepared well for more than three months and I am planning for a fast time,“ Gezahegn said. "My aim is to bring myself in a position to be considered for Olympic selection. I want to run 2:04 on Sunday.“
While the 22 year-old Ethiopian said he plans to run the first half in 62 minutes, Elite Race Director Christoph Kopp intends to instruct the pacemakers for a slightly slower approach. "Our idea is to cover the first half in around 62:40. In Frankfurt we often had a faster second half, which is what we hope to see on Sunday as well."
While Kosgey plans to go with the first group so does Wilson Chebet, the three-time Amsterdam winner (2011-2013) who has done some training runs together with Frankfurt’s course record holder and former world record holder Wilson Kipsang.
"We talked about Frankfurt shortly before I travelled here and Wilson gave me some advice," Chebet said. "He said Frankfurt is great for fast times and that the course is even faster than the one in Amsterdam. So my aim will be to improve my personal best."
For the first time Frankfurt will feature a strong Japanese elite team. Hiroyuki Yamamoto (PB: 2:09:12 in Tokyo 2017), Akinobou Murasawa (2:09:43 in Tokyo 2018) and Tadashi Isshiki (2:09:47 in Tokyo 2018) hope to further improve on the fast course with the ultimate goal of qualifying for next year’s Olympic trial race in Japan.
A number of debutants from East Africa could spring a surprise on Sunday. Among them is Kenya’s Alex Kibet, who has run a world-class 59:06 at this Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon.
Course record assault on the women's side
Meanwhile, the 2:21:01 course record could come under threat in the women’s race, Kopp confirmed.
“The women’s course record should really come under the microscope this time. We’ve done our best to put together a really strong women’s field. We hope this leads to a lot of personal bests and, to crown it all, a new course record.” Kopp said that 70 and 71-minute halves are the pace targets.
The field includes four Ethiopians who have run under 2:22 with one, Mare Dibaba, having cracked the 2:20 barrier with a pair of 2:19:52 performances to her credit. In 2015 she took the world title in Beijing before taking Olympic bronze the following year.
Three of Dibaba’s compatriots are likely to be among her strongest rivals. Haftamnesh Tesfay made an impressive debut over the distance in Dubai in January, clocking 2:20:13. Two places behind Tesfay in Dubai came another Ethiopian debutant, Dera Dida, who clocked 2:21:45. Meskerem Assefa finished third in 2:24:38 last year in Frankfurt and made solid improvement in winning the Nagoya title in mid-March, running 2:21:45.
Kenya’s Betsy Saina is expected to challenge. She produced a breakthrough performance in April, winning the Paris Marathon with a fine 2:22:56.
"My victory in Paris gave me a lot of confidence," Saina said. The marathon is a special event, but I will try and take a certain risk. Since my race in Paris I know that the marathon is my event and in Frankfurt I want to improve my time."
Organisers for the IAAF
Lemma and Jepkesho the favourites in Ljubljana
Sisay Lemma is among the the favourites at the 23rd Volkswagen Ljubljana Marathon, and IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday (28).
The 27-year-old Ethiopian brings impressive credentials to the start line in the cente of the Slovenian capital, having clocked his 2:04:08 lifetime best in Dubai in January, where he finished fifth. He was second at the Prague Marathon in May and can boast of solid fourth place showings in Chicago in 2017 and Berlin the year before that. In 2015, he took the Frankfurt title.
On paper, his compatriot Ayele Abshero has been nearly as fast. The 27-year-old won in Dubai in 2012 clocking 2:04:23, still his career best. He will be running his third marathon of the year, after third place finishes in Xaimen and Hamburg, the latter in 2:07:19.
Five others have lifetime bests better than 2:07, among them Kenyan Peter Kimeli Some, who clocked 2:05:38 to win in Paris five years ago. He's run well this year, clocking 2:06:49 to finish third in Daegu. Stephen Chegogut (2:05:52) is another sub-2:06 man, his 2:05:52 coming with his victory in Eindhoven three years ago.
Among the debutantes are Kenyans Felix Kibitok and Geoffrey Kusuro, who come armed with 59:21 and 59:43 personal bests in the half marathon.
The class of the women's field is Keyan Visiline Jepkesho, the Rotterdam winner this year and Paris champion in 2016 who ran her personal best of 2:21:37 in the French capital last year where she finished fourth.
She'll take on the defending champion Shuko Genemo Wote of Ethiopia, who cruised to a 2:27:02 victory last year. The 23-year-old clocked a 2:24:31 career best in 2016 which propelled her to victory in Vienna that year.
Sutume Asefe Kebede of Ethipia, 24, has a 2:24:00 career best with runner-up finishes in Toronto (2017) and Rotterdam (2016) under her belt. Kenyan Sharon Cherop has perhaps the strongest credentials, with four sub-2:23 finishes on her CV, topped by a 2:22:28 best from 2013. Arriving with a 2:29:36 season's best, the 34-year-old will be hoping to return to her form from five years ago.
Notable among debutantes on the women's side is Dibaba Kuma of Ethiopia, who has back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Barcelona Half Marathon, this year in 1:08:37.
The men's race record is 2:08:18 set by Ethiopian Limenih Getachew in 2015. The womens's dates back to 2009, when Kenyan Caroline Kilel, who went on to win the 2011 Boston Marathon and twice in Frankfurt, produced her career breakout with a solid 2:25:24 victory.
Any assaults on the race records could be a washout however if the forecast holds true. Rain, at times heavy, is likely from the early morning hours through mid-afternoon.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
Kawauchi the star attraction in Venice
Japanese marathon star Yuki Kawauchi will be in the spotlight at the 33rd edition of the Huawei Venice Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race, on Sunday (28).
Kawauchi made waves earlier this year when, running in extreme rainy and cold conditions, he won his first career World Marathon Majors title in Boston last April.
Kawauchi has run 81 marathon races under 2:20 and 26 in under 2:12 with an aim of ultimately breaking that barrier 100 times. In Venice he will run the 87th marathon of his career and his 10th over this distance this year. Just three weeks ago he finished 19th in Chicago. Kawauchi , a full-time employee for the government of Saitama Prefecture, is planning to finally turn professional next April.
Known as the “citizen runner”, Kawauchi came to the fore in 2011 when he finished third in the Tokyo Marathon in 2:08:37. In 2013 he ran the two fastest marathons of his career clocking 2:08:14 and 2:08:15 in a six-week stretch. In 2017 he finished ninth at the IAAF World Championships in London. This year he has raced more than 20 times over distances from the half marathon to an ultra-marathon. He ran the Kuki Half Marathon in Japan dressed in a panda suit and set a course record at the Yatsugatake Nobeyama 71 km ultamarathon race.
“This year the summer was very hot in Japan and this has affected my training, but now, with the arrival of cool weather I returned to run regularly and I want to finish under 2:10 in Venice,” Kawauchi said.
Among his opponents will be Kenyan Philip Kangogo Cheruiyot, who clocked his 2:08:16 career best at the 2015 Barcelona Marathon. The line-up also features Kipkemei Mutai, who has a 2:10:16 best, John Komen, the Venice course record at 2:08:13, and Gilbert Kipleting Chumba, who works as a plumber in Kenya and bought a cow he named Venice after finishing fourth in last year’s race.
The favourite in the women’s race is Kenyan Angela Jemesunde Tanui, who clocked 2:26:31 in Vienna in 2017 and has a half marathon best of 1:07:16. The leading European runner is Croatia’s Nikolina Sustic, winner of the 2018 100km ultramarathon world title.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Calvin the favourite at Marseille-Cassis
Clémence Calvin will be the favourite at the 40th edition of the challenging Marseille-Cassis 20km, an IAAF Silver Label road race, on Sunday (28).
Calvin will return to the competition following her silver medal performance in the marathon at the European Championships in August. She had clocked 2:26:28 for her first marathon two months after she broke the French 10km record with a 31:20 run.
She’ll need to keep an eye on a trio of Kenyans to become the first Frenchwoman to win Marseille-Cassis since Fatiha Fauvel-Klilech in 2005.
The 39-year-old Joyce Kandie improved her half marathon best with 1:09:21 this year while Lucy Macharia won the Roanne 10km in a PB 31:48. Also in the race is Gladys Kipkoech, who clocked a 1:10:13 personal best at the Hamburg Half Marathon.
Not to be discounted is 28-year-old Ethiopian Gete Alemayehu, third in the Langueux 10km in 32:08 and 48 seconds behind Calvin.
The course record of 1:05:58 set last year by Edith Chelimo shouldn’t be in jeopardy.
The men’s race appears to be wide open. Kenya’s John Loitang holds the fastest half marathon PB in the field with 1:00:16 set back to 2013. Last year he won half marathons in Warsaw and Cardiff clocking 1:01:12 and 1:00:39 respectively.
Ethiopian Abera Kuma clocked 1:00:19 in 2012 and more recently finished runner-up at the Rotterdam marathon in a new PB of 2:05:50.
Moses Kibet should be one the main contender courtesy of his 1:00:44 best over the half marathon distance posted last year in Klagenfurt, where he finished runner-up. The Ugandan clocked a more modest 1:03:25 in Trento in early October.
His countryman Maxwell Kortek will tackle the distance for the first time. His 27:22 10km PB make the young runner a strong contender.
Frenchman Hassan Chahdi will also have a role to play. He finished third at the Paris 20 km two weeks ago in 59:50, 1:06 slower than his best of 58:44 set in 2017.
The Kenyan Nicodemus Kimutai could also come up trumps following his 15km record of 43:46. Also in the field is Yismaw Ayenu, who recorded a 10km best of 28:27 in Langueux, one second behind Moses Kibet who won the race.
As in the women’s race, the course record of 57:18 set by Edwin Kipyego shouldn’t be threated.
Quentin Guillon for the IAAF