Azmeraw Bekele winning the 2017 Hangzhou Marathon (© Zhu Danyang)
Ethiopia’s Azmeraw Bekele will be looking to claim back-to-back victories and challenge his own course record at the Hangzhou Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label road race, on Sunday (4).
Last year, the 32-year-old emerged triumphant from a three-man battle in the final kilometre to take the top honours in 2:10:33 in what was his first appearance at the scenic city in southeastern China, beating the previous course record set by countryman Bejigan Regasa Mndaye in 2016 by 49 seconds.
Although he has not run in any race at any distance since that victory, Bekele is still seen as one of the top favourites to continue the record-breaking streak in Hangzhou, thanks to his 2:07:12 personal best achieved at the 2014 Dubai Marathon, which made him the fastest man among the entrants. However, he will also be facing a strong challenge from a clutch of Kenyan sub-2:10 runners on Sunday with the biggest threat being the 31-year-old Edwin Kibet Koech.
Since his marathon debut in 2014, Koech has remained consistent. He registering his career best time of 2:08:17 three years ago from his fifth place finish in Eindhoven and went on to won at the 2016 Linz Marathon in 2:09:06. His most recent performance was staged at the Dalian International Marathon six month ago, as he broke the course record with a winning mark of 2:09:44.
Kenya’s Geoffrey Ronoh, who will turn 36 on Monday , will also toe the line with high spirits. The 2:09:29 performer has yet to run in any marathon in the current season but collected two half marathon titles in August and September respectively.
Ronoh’s compatriot Evans Sambu is another man to watch. Following his victories in China’s Taiyuan and Shenzhen in 2016, the 25-year-old broke the 2:10 barrier for the first time last October when he clocked a career best mark of 2:09:05 to finished fifth in Gongju. However, Sambu has been struggling to find his best form in 2018, finishing seventh in Dongying and Taiyuan with a lackluster season best mark of 2:17:39.
The field also include Kenyan duo Mike Kiprotich Mutai, former Hong Kong and Danzhou Marathon winner, and Edwin Kimaiyo, whose PB of 2:09:12 was achieved last year in Shanghai. Ethiopia’s Mesfin Teshome was another sub-2:10 runner who set his PB of 2:09:24 in Dubai two years ago.
Hirut Tibedu of Ethiopia will be the star attraction in the women’s race. After setting her lifetime best of 2:23:35 from the third finish in Shanghai 12 months ago, the 23-year-old went on to prevail at the Seoul Marathon in March with a winning mark of 2:24:08, which makes her the fastest entrant and also arguably the most in-form runner in the field.
Kenya’s Chemtai Rionotukei, 32, has raced well in China in recent years. After winning the Dongguan Marathon in 2016, she set her PB of 2:26:30 last May to finish second at the Yellow River Estuary International Marathon in Dongying. The Kenyan also set the Taiyuan Marathon course record of 2:29:36 last year and went on to finish as the runner-up in the same race in September.
Nastassia Ivanova of Belarus, who will celebrate her 36th birthday on Sunday, is another serious contender. Although her PB of 2:27:24 dates back to 2012, Ivanova came close to that mark this season with her fifth finish at the Berlin Marathon in 2:27:49. She also rallied to win the 2018 Warsaw Marathon in 2:28:03 and became the first ever repeat winner of the race.
The field also includes Ethiopia’s Tsehay Desalegn, who finished third in Hangzhou last year with a PB of 2:28:35, as well as Nancy Koech of Kenya, former winner of the Munster, Copenhagen, Mombasa, and Malaga marathons.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF
Wide open men's field at Nice-Cannes Marathon
Nurit Yimam and Doris Changeiywo are the favourites of the women’s race at the Marathon des Alpes Maritimes, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race which takes place between Nice and Cannes on Sunday (5). The men’s field appears to be wide open.
Nixon Kurgat will bear bib No. 1 as the fastest man in the field, having run five times under 2:10:00 with a best of 2:07:11 set in Chuncheon, South Korea, four years ago.
Nevertheless his last official competition dates back to October 2015 when the 30-year-old Kenyan finished runner-up in the Korean city in 2:10:01.
Abrha Milaw of Ethiopia will attempt to succeed to his compatriot Dejene Kelkilew, who took the top prize in 2017. He set his PB of 2:07:46 four years ago, was sixth in Vienna in 2:12:57 this year and also won in Stockholm last year in 2:11:36.
Eritrea’s Tewelde Estifanos, is the third fastest man of the field thanks to his 2:09:19 lifetime best set in 2015. His last official outing was in Gold Coast last year, where he clocked 2:13:38.
Also in the field are Kenya’s Benard Too, who won the Brescia Marathon last year in a personal best of 2:09:47, and Kuma Chuko, who posted a best of 2:13:28 to finish 13th in Dubai last January.
The 35 year-old Berhane Tsegay will also have a say courtesy of his PBs of 1:01:21 over 13.1 miles and 2:13:57 over 26.2.
The women’s field is dominated by Yimam of Ethiopia and Changeiywo of Kenya. The former finished at the foot of the podium in Marrakech in January clocking 2:28:41, 1:09 faster than the personal best of the latter, who posted 2:29:50 to finish fourth in Milan in April.
Changeiywo was fourth in the short race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships 10 years ago.
Her countrywoman Edna Kimaiyo should also be in contention for the podium of the race’s 11th edition. Although she hasn’t run this year, she is the third fastest woman in the field courtesy a personal best of 2:31:25 set in the French city of Rennes in 2015. Her 1:10:45 half marathon best was set in Nice three years ago.
Not to be discounted are Sarah Ramadhan of Tanzania, who finished runner-up last year in Dusseldörf in 2:33:08, 30 seconds faster than Ethiopia’s Ido Fanose, whose PB of 2:33:38 was set in Zhendzhou.
Quentin Guillon for the IAAF
Course record assaults on tap at Porto Marathon
Course record assaults are on the pre-race playbook at the 15th running of the Porto Marathon on Sunday, the first time the race carries an IAAF Bronze Label.
The men’s field includes 10 men who have run under 2:11 - six of those sub-2:10) - while last year’s winner, Kenyan Jackson Kibet Limo (PB 2:09.06), is firmly committed to taking down the 2:09:51 course record set by Kenyan Philemon Baaru in 2011.
But there are other strong contenders such as Ethiopians Abraham Girma (2:06:48), second at the Cophenagen Marathon; Fikadu Bekede (2:09:37), winner in Rabat 2017; Daniel Deresxe (2:10:09), second at the Leiden marathon and Belete Mekonen (2:10:34), second in Madrid last year.
The Kenyan contingent also includes Richard Limo (2:06:45), Kenneth Mburu Mungara (2:07:36), the 2018 Gold Coast winner and Mathhew Bowen (2:10.57). Ugandan Robert Chemonges (2:10:32), the winner in Dusseldorf this year and Eritrean Kibrom Weldemicael (2:09:36) could also be factors.
We also have to pay attention to debutante Ezrah Sang from Kenya, the winner of this year's Madrid Half Marathon, who has a 1:00:36 PB over the distance.
In the women's race the target is the 2:26:58 course record set by Kenyan Monica Jepkoech last year. Leading the chase will be Ethiopians Mesekerem Abera Hunde (2:28:25), winner of the 2018 Wuham Marathon, Alemu Megertu (2:29:10), second at this year's Rabat Marathon, and Abeba-Tekulu Gebremeskel (2:30:18).
There are high hopes for Portugal's Filomena Costa (2:28:00), third in 2016 edition, who can provide a surprise, perhaps even the win. The same holds true for debutante Elvanie Nimbona, Burundi’s half marathon champion with a 1:10:32 personal best.
The event also hosts the Portuguese marathon championships and two more events: a competitive 15km race and a 6km non-competitive race.
Besides course records, organisers are also hoping to witness record registration and a record number of finishers. The former has already been achieved.
António Fernandes for the IAAF