Caroline Kilel ahead of the 2016 Mattoni Karlovy Vary Half Marathon (© Giancarlo Colombo / organisers)
Kenya’s Caroline Kilel will seek to score her first half marathon victory in almost two years at the Mattoni Karlovy Vary Half Marathon while the leading men will chase the course record at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Saturday (21).
Tucked 120km away from Prague in the Ore Mountains, the race follows a scenic route along the Tepla River to the colonnade and continues passing by many enchanting buildings and promenade halls.
The course can be fast, as was proven last year when both course records were broken. Kenya’s Elijah Tirop Serem won the men’s race in 1:01:01, while Ethiopia’s Mula Seboka took the women’s title in 1:09:11.
But those records won’t last long if this year’s field has anything to say about it.
In the women’s race, everyone figures to be chasing the 35-year-old Kilel, the 2011 Boston Marathon champion and two-time winner of the Frankfurt Marathon. Kilel comes into the race in fairly strong shape, having won the Daegu Marathon last month in 2:27:39.
At the half marathon distance, it has been seven years since she clocked her PB of 1:08:16 in Birmingham and two-and-a-half years since her last triumph, in Keringet (1:12:15).
But Kilel isn’t likely to be handed victory easily by her opponents.
Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya ran 1:09:09 at altitude to finish second at the Nairobi Half Marathon in March. Bekelech Daba of Ethiopia has a best of 1:10:09 and is coming off a solid 2:29:50 run at the Nagoya Marathon in March. And Risa Takenaka of Japan has run 1:10:10 for the half marathon and finished third at the Osaka Women’s Marathon in 2:29:14 in January.
On the men’s side, there are three runners within realistic striking distance of Serem’s course record.
Kenya’s Abraham Kasongor, who ran 1:00:25 in Istanbul last year, leads the way. The 23-year-old is the fastest in the field but is yet to win a race over the 13.1-mile distance.
He will be challenged by two men who have already run well this year. Mustapha El Aziz of Morocco won the Marrakech Half Marathon in January in a personal best of 1:00:39. Simon Tesfai of Eritrea comes into the race fresh off a runner-up finish in 1:01:00 at the Berlin Half Marathon in April.
Moroccan Olympian Mourad Marofit clocked 28:37 to win over 10km in Holyoke earlier this year, but his half marathon best of 1:01:43 dates back to 2006 and he hasn’t run faster than 1:03:00 since then.
There will be plenty of local support for the leading Czech athletes. On the men’s side Milan Kocourek, who ran 1:04:23 at the Prague Half Marathon in April, heads that list, while 43-year-old Petra Kaminkova, who ran her PB of 1:12:17 in Prague in 2014, is the top Czech woman.
Joe Battaglia (organisers) for the IAAF