Women's lead pack at the 2016 Mexico City Marathon (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Kebede to defend title at Mexico City Marathon

Fikadu Kebede returns to the Mexican capital to defend his title Sunday at the 36th Telcel Mexico City International Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label road race, which will also honour the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic Games.

Last year, Kebede beat Bahrain’s Isaac Korir in the last kilometre to become the second Ethiopian man in five years to win the largest 42.195km race in Latin America.

The winner of the 2017 Rabat Marathon with a lifetime best of 2:09:37, will enter his third marathon of the season after running 2:19:06 in Hong Kong in January and 2:14:37 for seventh in Lanzhou, China, in June.

Apart from the city’s 2240m high altitude, the Ethiopian will also face five men with personal bests faster than his, including Kenya’s Matthew Kisorio (2:06:33), Felix Kipchirchir Kiprotich (2:06:54), Edwin Kipngetich Koech (2:07:13) and Titus Ekiru (2:07:43). The last three ran their fastest marathon times in 2017.

The Ethiopian contingent looks more solid in the women’s race, but Kebede will also rely on his countryman Daniel Aschenik Derese, winner in Mexico’s capital in 2015.

Out of the eight women registered with times under 2:30, six are from that nation, including the five fastest: Biruktayit Degefa (2:23:51), Fatuma Sado, (2:24:16), Fatu Jimma (2:26:14) and Tinbit Weldegebril (2:26:48). The last two achieved their top mark in 2018, while Degefa seems to be in top form following her victory in Houston in January with 2:24:51.

The 2018 edition will crown a new women’s champion after the absence of two-time winner and course record holder Gladys Tejeda.

The race will also feature a friendly “rematch” between two of Mexico’s most decorated distance runners: two-time New York Marathon winner German Silva and his runner-up in 1994, Benjamín Paredes.

"Benja (Benjamin) and I were part of a generation of Mexican (runners) who achieved great things. We stood out for our dedication and discipline and we then prepare to share our knowledge. It will be emotional to run with him after so many years,” said Silva.

The Marathon will follow the same course used at the 1968 Olympic Games, with the start in downtown Mexico City and the finish at the University stadium.

In honour of the 1968 Summer Games, the first organised by a Latin American country, various personalities will join the Marathon Flame tour, a 25km relay run.

Top names include Japan’s Kenji Kijimara (1968 silver medallist), Mexico’s two-time Olympian and coach Rodolfo Gómez and 1984 Olympic race walking champion Ernesto Canto.

Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF