Benjamin Kiptoo from Kenya is set to defend his crown on Sunday (15) for the 36th edition of the Paris Marathon, while Ethiopians Tirfi Beyene and Shitaye Bedaso are the favourite for the female race.
The Marathon de Paris is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
Kiptoo, fourth in 2010 and the winner last year in his personal best will line-up with the advantage to know the course of the race starting from the base of the Arc de Triomphe. The Champs-Elysées will take the marathoners down to the Place de la Concorde. Running through the Rue de Rivoli, they will cruise the Place de la Bastille before attacking the first difficulty in ascending the Route Saint-Hubert before entering in the Bois de Vincennes at the half-way point. There, the return leg to along the Sein River will be a long slope towards the western part of the French capital and the Bois de Boulogne. Only a handful runners are expected to still be in contention for the victory in the last uphill section at the 36th kilometre before closing the 42.195km race on Foch Avenue.
The main opposition to Kiptoo will come from his Kenyan teammates and the surprising Albert Matebor, who smashed his lifetime best by 4 minutes at 31 years of age, running 2:05:25 in Frankfurt in last October.
Stanley Biwott, only the 9th best performer of the field with 2:07:03 for his win in Chunchon last year, will be the one to watch as he won the Paris Half-Marathon last month in a solid 59:44.
The experienced Richard Limo, the former track specialist who was 2001 World 5000m champion in Edmonton (12:56.72 PB in Zurich at 5000m in 2001), has become a prolific marathon runner (2:06:45 in Amsterdam in 2007) and will be one of the outsiders along with Eric Ndiema, third in Amsterdam’s 2011 edition (2:06:07).
Ethiopia’s best chances will be defended by Eshetu Wendimu, third in Paris last year in 2:07:33, and Tariku Jufar, who already showed his form this season in winning Houston Marathon with 2:06:51 in January. Driss El Himer will try to approach his old personal best (2:06:48) he set in Paris on 2003 in order to qualify for London Olympic Games in the French team.
Pacemakers, led by Kiprop Limo (a 2:08:39 performer), will be asked to set a pace targeting the 2:05:47 course record set by Kenyan Vincent Kipruto in 2009, and also the women’s record, 2:22:05 by Atsede Bayisa set in 2010.
In the absence of 2011 winner Priscah Jeptoo, the women’s race is wide open and any of the Ethiopians who landed in Paris on Friday morning can win.
Tirfi Beyene, third in Paris two years ago with 2:24:51 and the fastest of the field with 2:22:44, is the clear favourite of the race. Her teammate Shitaye Bedaso will have to run much faster than what she did earlier this year in Dubai (2:27:14) in order to fight for the win. Goitetom Tesema, 2nd in Rome in 2011 with 2:26:21 and Makda Harun are also candidates for the podium.
Kenya’s strongest hope is held by Julia Mumbi, whose personal best (2:06:00) dates back to 2008, but has compiled a fine career since, with a win in Reims Marathon last year (2:29:10).
No less than 40,000 runners from 109 countries are expected to line up under the Arc de Triomphe at 08:45 (CET) under cool temperature and possible showers, according to the latest weather forecasts.
P-J Vazel for the IAAF