Bazu Worku on his way to winning the Houston Marathon (© Victah Sailor)
After several close calls over the past three editions of the Vodafone Istanbul Marathon, the course records of 2:10:42 and 2:27:25 look ripe for the picking at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday (16).
Ethiopia’s Bazu Worku will be looking to secure his third victory of the year after winning in Houston in 2:07:32 and at the Lake Biwa Marathon in 2:09:10. Although the Istanbul Marathon is renowned for its tough course, the 24-year-old also hopes to run faster than 2:10, a barrier he has broken in eight of the 12 marathons he has completed.
Worku will be coming full circle in the Turkish city, having made his first international appearance in the 15km race at the Istanbul Marathon in 2008. One year later he burst on to the scene by clocking 2:06:15 on his marathon debut while still a junior. At the 2010 Berlin Marathon he clocked a lifetime best of 2:05:25.
Also gunning for victory is the Kenyan trio of Josphat Muchiri Ndambiri, William Chebon Chebor and Simon Ndirangu.
Ndambiri made his marathon debut in 2011 when he won in Fukuoka in 2:07:36, but he hasn’t raced over the distance since.
Chebor has more experience but a slower personal best with 2:08:21 from Turin three years ago. He dipped under 2:10 again this April when he won in Brighton in 2:09:25.
Ndirangu will be making his marathon debut, but will be familiar with some parts of the course as he was second in the 15km in Istanbul last year.
There are other Kenyans in the race who could make it on to the podium. Solomon Molla, winner of the Seoul Marathon in 2008 in a PB of 2:08:46, ran a modest 2:10:51 in Xiamen early January this year.
The 29-year-old Cosmas Koech Kimutai set his personal best of 2:09:25 at the Eindhoven Marathon in 2010, while Michael Kiprop Tiony posted his fastest time of 2:09:45 in Xiamen two years ago.
But the surprise could come from Mulue Andom. The Eritrean, who turned 23 last month, clocked 2:11:03 on his marathon debut in Amsterdam last year. Istanbul will be just his second marathon, so he could improve on that time.
Arkhipova could end African reign
The women’s race at the past five editions of the Istanbul Marathon has been won by African athletes. But Russia’s Olympic bronze medallist Tatyana Arkhipova could put an end to that.
The 31-year-old, who took the 3000m steeplechase silver medal at the 2007 World Championships, set her marathon PB of 2:23:29 when finishing third at the 2012 Olympics. This will be just her second marathon since then; her other being a 13th-place finish in 2:30:29 at the Boston Marathon. More recently, Arkhipova won the Russian half-marathon title in 1:13:34.
But if experience of the course is anything to go by, Ethiopia’s Amane Gobena could be the favourite. The 32-year-old has twice contested the Istanbul Marathon, finishing third in 2010 and second in 2012. Should she continue the trend of improving by one place every two years, 2014 could be the year in which Gobena finally wins.
Her PB of 2:23:50 is marginally slower than Arkhipova’s, but her season’s best of 2:27:05 makes her the fastest in the field this year. Her best performance to date in Istanbul was her 2:28:38 clocking in 2012, little more than a minute shy of the course record.
Fellow Ethiopian Merima Mohammed has the fastest PB of the entire field, having clocked 2:23:06 in 2010 while still a junior. She has two other sub-2:24 times to her credit, but failed to finish the Tokyo Marathon, her only other competitive appearance this year.
Double 2008 Olympic silver medallist Elvan Abeylegesse carries the home hopes. She made her marathon debut at this race last year, clocking 2:29:30 to finish second. She came within 16 seconds of that mark when finishing fifth at this year’s European Championships. If all goes well on Sunday, she could become just the second Turkish woman to win the Istanbul Marathon after Serap Aktas who won in 1994.
Others who look capable of making it on to the podium are Ethiopia’s Salomie Kassa Getnet, who has a PB of 2:25:15, and Emebt Etea, whose PB is 2:25:52, as well as Russia’s Olena Burkovska who in 2013 broke the Hannover course record with a PB of 2:27:07.
Tergat the guest of honour
Former marathon world record-holder Paul Tergat will be the guest of honour in Istanbul this weekend. The double Olympic silver medallist will join Kadir Topbas, mayor of Istanbul, for the official start of the marathon and will then present the winners with their medals after the race.
The marathon starts on the Asian side of the city and crosses the Bosphorus Bridge to arrive in Europe, to the finish line at the Hippodrome, one of the oldest race tracks in the world, situated in the historical district Sultanahmet housing the famous Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.
This year, the Vodafone Istanbul Marathon has introduced a Green Project to encourage the consumption of eco-friendly products. Race director Ismail Ozbayraktar stated that the organising team has committed itself to implementing the necessary measures to protect the environment during the race.
A total of 25,000 runners are expected in Istanbul – 7000 for the marathon, 8000 for the 15km and 10,000m for the 10km. 2500 volunteers have been recruited to support the event, from hospitality management to refreshment stations.
Organisers for the IAAF