Feyisa Lilesa and Brigid Kosgei will return to defend their titles at the 19th edition of the Bogota Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race, on Sunday (29).
Lilesa, the 2016 Olympic marathon silver medallist, took a convincing nine-second victory at this race one year ago, while Kosgei, a 38-year-old road racing veteran, produced an even bigger victory, beating compatriot Veronica Wanjiru by 26 seconds.
But Kosgei faces a stiff challenge this year, going up against Ethiopian Netsanet Gudeta, the reigning world half marathon champion.
Guteda, 27, stormed to a 1:06:11 women’s-only race half marathon world record in Valencia on 24 March. After a fourth place finish at the TCS World 10km in Bengaluru, India, on 27 May, where she clocked 31:53, Guteda returned to the half marathon distance at the Olomouc Half Marathon, where she dominated from the outset to collect a 1:07:30 victory in the Czech city. That sort of form indicates that the course record of 1:10:39, set by Susan Chepkemei in 2004, could be under threat. The unknown variable however, is how Gudeta will handle the 2600m altitude of the Colombian capital.
Besides the troublesome altitude, she'll have to contend with Roza Dereja, another breakout performer this year who's made waves over both the half marathon and marathon distances. The 21-year-old began the new year with a bang, taking top honours at the Dubai Marathon on 26 January in 2:19:17, a lifetime best by more than three minutes and still the second fastest performance of the year. She followed up on 8 April with a solid 1:07:00 run at the Istanbul Half Marathon.
Another fast Ethiopian in the field is Degitu Azimeraw, who notched a 1:06:47 personal best in Ras Al Khaimah in February.
Others to watch in the women's race include Visiline Jepkesho of Kenya, who brings 1:08:12 credentials to the line.
Meanwhile, Lilesa, 28, has put in three high profile performances this year, but is still trying to recapture the form that propelled him to his 59:22 and 2:04:52 lifetime bests back in 2012. He's performed well though recently, clocking 1:00:20 at the Houston Half Marathon in January, finishing third, and 2:07:30 at the Tokyo Marathon in late February where he was sixth.
The field includes Kenyan Dickson Chumba, this year's Tokyo Marathon winner in 2:05:30, whose 1:00:39 personal best dates back to 2014. Alphonce Felix Simbu is another strong marathoner in the field, whose CV includes 2017 World Championships bronze over the distance and a fifth place showing at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Betesfa Getahun makes his eagerly anticipated follow-up to his World Half Marathon Championships appearances. The 19-year-old finished a solid sixth in Valencia in March, clocking 1:00:54. That was his second national team appearance. His first came in the U20 race at the World Cross Country Championships in Kampala last year, where he finished fourth.
Mogos Shumay of Eritrea also may surprise. The 21-year-old finished second at the always competitive Stramilano in March, clocking a 1:00:40 personal best. A month later he won the Padova Marathon in 2:12:23.
The men's course record is 1:02:20, set by Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai in 2011.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF