Kenya's John Kyalo Kyui will attempt to retain his title, and become the first overseas runner of either gender to win the race more than once, at the 26th edition of the Siberian International Marathon in the Russian city of Omsk on Sunday (20).
Despite fiercely cold conditions at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race 12 months ago, Kyui dominated the race and won by almost 10 minutes.
His winning time of 2:14:50 was, perhaps, not that impressive but solid considering the lack of serious competition and low temperatures. His 2014 victory in Omsk was only the third marathon win of his career so it is no surprise that Kyui has decided to come back to Siberia for his first international race of 2015.
Indeed, the long-standing course record of 2:13:03, set by Russia’s Eduard Tukhbatullin in 1993, might be under threat
Kyui’s personal best of 2:10:00 dates from when he won the 2011 Zurich Marathon but he is not the fastest man in the field.
His challengers include his fellow Kenyan Laban Moiben, who won in Ottawa back in 2012 in a PB of 2:09:13. More recently, Moiben was sixth in Zhengzhou, China, in March this year but in a much slower time of 2:16:10.
Ethiopia’s Demise Girma also ran his best of 2:10:37 back in 2012 but his current shape to contest the classic distance is unknown as he has not raced a marathon in the past three years.
Azerbaijani record-holder Tilahun Aliyev could also be a contender for a place on the podium. Back in 2013, Aliyev finished 18th in Dubai in the record time of 2:11:22. Last year he moved up one place there, though in a slower time of 2:15:00.
Top home runner Andrey Minyakov finished fourth in Omsk back in 2013, setting his best of 2:17:00.
In the women’s race, local Omsk runner Olga Glok is expected to keep the women's title in Russia.
The winner in Prague back in 2011, Glok has a best of 2:27:18. She was also a part of the Russian team at the 2009 IAAF World Championships, where she finished 28th.
Another home runner Albina Mayorova, who finished ninth at the 2012 Olympics and actually won this race 13 years ago in 2002 when she set the current course record of 2:30:21, could fight with Glok for the win in what will be the 37th marathon of her career.
She was eighth in Tokyo this February in 2:34:21 although her best, from 2012, is much better at 2:23:52.
Now 38, the experienced Mayorova has been on the Russian team on plenty of important occasions including two Olympic Games as well as at World and European Championships.
Olesya Nurgalieva specialises in ultrarunning, a discipline in which she with her identical twin sister Yelena have dominated the women's races at the Comrades and Two Oceans ultramarathons in South Africa in the recent years.
However, the 39-year-old, who is the two-time winner of the famous Comrades race, is focusing on shorter distances and won the Antalya marathon in March this year with 2:46:32. Her best time dates back to 2008 and is 2:27:37.
Ethiopia’s Workitu Ayanu is the top international contender and won the Caen Marathon in France earlier this year. Ayanu was also second in the Geneva and Sydney marathons in the past two years, and has a best of 2:29:25.
Worth a mention is the fact that the weather forecast on Sunday again promises cold and wet conditions in Omsk with the temperature about 10C, which is likely to be challenging for the African runners.
Natalia Maryanchik for the IAAF