There are no clear favourites, and close finishes will be no surprise at the 13th edition of the Vodafone Istanbul Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race, on Sunday (8).
One of the fastest runners in the men’s field is Leonard Langat who has a lifetime best of 59:18 from 2016. The Kenyan has run a half marathon each month this year, finishing second in 59:41 at The Hague City-Pier-City Half Marathon in March.
Eyes will also be on Albert Kangogo, also from Kenya, keeping in mind the 59:25 he ran at the Copenhagen Half Marathon last year.
Amdework Walelegn of Ethiopia, the youngest in the field, may be a newcomer to world-class road running but he is still one of the athletes to watch on Sunday. The 19-year-old won the Laredo 10km in March in a world leading time of 27:36, showing the potential to go fast for the 21.1km distance.
Evans Kiplagat of Azerbaijan, who achieved a time of 59:56 back in 2009, is no stranger to the race course. He will be running the Istanbul Half Marathon for the fourth consecutive year.
Home hopes in Istanbul are led by Kaan Kigen Özbilen who finished ninth at the IAAF/Trinidad Alfonso World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia two weeks ago. Özbilen will be joined by his compatriot Ali Kaya, winner of the 2016 edition of the Istanbul Half Marathon.
Ethiopia’s Olympic marathon medallist Feyisa Lilesa is a disappointment for the organisers by his last-minute withdrawal citing an illness that caused him to be hospitalised.
On the women’s side, Joyce Chepkirui, coming back from an injury period after her fourth place at the 2016 New York Marathon, stepped back on a race course in Honolulu last December. The 30-year-old Kenyan has a 1:06:19 best from 2014.
Chepkirui will be strongly challenged by three Ethiopians. Roza Dereje, a 1:07:23 runner from last year, won the Dubai Marathon in January in a career best time of 2:19:17. Ababel Yeshaneh ran her PB 1:07:21 in New Delhi, also in 2017. Zerfie Limeneh was second in Paris on 4 March with 1:08:10.
Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, the organiser of the event, will commemorate Tanzanian record holder Ismail Juma, who passed away in a motorbike accident seven months after his win in Istanbul in 2017. Elisha Dosla Wema, a young athlete from Juma’s training group, was invited to Istanbul to run the event, and will be presented a plaque in a ceremony to take to the deceased’s family.
Can Korkmazoglu (organisers) for the IAAF