Bonsa Dida on his way to winning the Madrid Marathon (© Nacho Barranco)
The sixth edition of Hengshui Lake International Marathon will be hotly contested on Saturday (30) as the IAAF Bronze Label road race has attracted competitive fields in both races.
A total of eight runners in the men’s elite list have set a PB this year. Six of them have PBs ranging between 2:10:12 to 2:10:51.
Kenya’s Bernard Kiprotich Too is the fastest man on paper and the only sub-2:10 entrant. Still a relative newcomer to the marathon, the 25-year-old clocked a career best of 2:09:47 to win the Brescia Marathon in March. It will be his first time running on the round-way course that stretches around the Hengshui Lake in China’s Hebei Province.
Bonsa Dida of Ethiopia also arrives in Hengshui in high spirits. He has improved his PB twice this year, finishing third at the Mumbai Marathon in January and setting a winning mark of 2:10:16 to claim the Mardrid Marathon title in April. The 22-year-old, who finished 10th at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017, will be looking to continue his sound form in Hengshui and perhaps even challenge the course record of 2:07:38 set by compatriot Markos Geneti in 2014.
Kenya’s Michael Njenga Kunyuga, 30, also had a marathon victory to his name in 2017 as he registered a convincing 2:10:43 win in Padua five months ago.
Ethiopian veteran Regasa Mindaye is another man to watch as the 37-year-old can draw upon his successful experiences competing in China. Between December 2015 and November 2016, he won five consecutive marathons in China, winning in Shenzhen, Zhengzhou, Liupanshui, Panjin and Hangzhou. In April this year he reduced his PB to 2:10:51 when finishing sixth at the Vienna Marathon.
The field also includes Kenya’s Alfonce Kibiwot Kigen, who clocked a PB of 2:10:24 to finish fourth in Vienna, and Abraham Akopesha, who finished 11th in Paris with 2:10:12 on his marathon debut. Hicham Laqouahi of Morocco will be targeting his first marathon title on Saturday after clocking 2:10:24 to finish second in Marrakech earlier this year.
The organisers have also assembled a deep field in the women’s race but it appears as though the course record of 2:25:43 set by Kenya’s Agnes Kiprop in 2015 may not be challenged this year.
With a PB of 2:27:17 from 2011, Kenya’s Peninah Arusei leads the cast. The 38-year-old has a better record at the half marathon, having earned a bronze medal at the 2010 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and finished fifth in the same competition two years earlier.
Arusei’s best marathon performance in recent three years was a second-place finish in Warsaw last year with a 2:29:21 clocking. She competed in the Yellow River Estuary International Marathon in Dongying this year and finished fifth in 2:33:10.
Tigist Memuye of Ethiopia, who turned 27 on Wednesday, is arguably the most in-form runner toeing the line. She registered a PB of 2:27:39 to win the Zheng-Kai Marathon in Zhengzhou earlier this year, making her the fastest woman in 2017 on the entry list.
Tizita Terecha, also from Ethiopia, is another serious contender with a PB of 2:28:02 set in 2015 en route to winning the Guangzhou Marathon. In her only race so far this year, she was a few minutes down on her PB pace, finishing eighth in Vienna in 2:36:31.
Nancy Jebet Koech of Kenya, meanwhile, has improved her PB to 2:29:30 in 2017, finishing fourth in Daegu. Compatriot Betty Wilson Lempus also proved her competitiveness in April when she took a comfortable victory in Enschede in 2:29:31.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF