Previews15 Apr 2016

Matebor looking to become the first man to retain Lodz Marathon title


Kenya's Albert Matebor wins the Lodz Marathon (©

The 12th edition of the DOZ Lodz Marathon will once again feature a high-quality international field. Six men who have run faster than 2:11:00 and three women who have gone under 2:30:00 will be on the start line of the IAAF Silver Label Road Race on Sunday (17).

Heading the entry lists are last year’s winner Albert Matebor of Kenya and Magarsa Askale of Ethiopia. And with more than 2000 participants having entered the race, this year’s marathon in Poland’s third largest city has already become the largest in its history.

The 35-year-old Matebor is by far the fastest man in the field, with a best of 2:05:25 set while finishing third in Frankfurt in 2011.

In addition to last year’s victory in Lodz, the Kenyan’s CV includes a win in Verona in 2011, as well as top-five finishes in Rome, Prague and Los Angeles.

With five sub-2:10 performances in his career, Matebor looks capable of challenging the course record of 2:10:02, held since 2013 by Ethiopia’s Belachew Ameta and also becoming the first man in the fairly short history of the race to defend his title in Lodz.

The man most likely to challenge the favourite is his younger compatriot Mutai Kipkemei.

The 29- year-old Kipkemei has already bettered 2:11 on four occasions, with a best of 2:09:29 in 2014. His credentials include second place in Rennes last year and third in Hengshui in 2014.

Kipkemei is yet to win a marathon but Lodz may provide the perfect opportunity to do just that.

The one Polish runner likely to mix it with the best is the Ethiopian-born Yared Shegumo. The 33-year old with strong track credentials – including setting a 3000m national indoor record meters – turned his sights on the marathon four years ago and has found significant success on the roads.

Among his accolades are the European Championships silver medal in 2014 and a win in Warsaw in 2013.

Among the elite field, Shegumo is also the one with the most experience on the Lodz course, having won this race in 2014, and finished fourth in both 2013 and 2015. He has also broken 2:11 in each of the last three years, with a best of 2:10:34 in 2013.

Abraraw Misganaw looks to be the top Ethiopian challenger. A prolific racer, he has run six marathons in the last two years, with a best of 2:10:22 in Dubai in 2014. He recently finished third in the Warsaw half marathon, which suggests he might be ready for another good race in Poland.

Miganaw's fellow Ethiopian, Gezahegn Muleta, is only a little slower at 2:11:33, his best set last November while taking third place in La Rochelle.

Urige Buta, another Ethiopian-born runner, will be representing Norway, and is the third fastest in the field with 2:09:27 when he finished third in the 2010 edition of the Hamburg marathon.

Askale Tafa looking for first win for nine years

On the women’s side, Ethiopia’s Magarsa Askale Tafa looks to be the class of the field.

Her lifetime best of 2:21:31 ranks her among the 50 fastest ever and she has run below 2:26 five more times. Her record includes wins in Paris, Dubai and Milan, although her zlast victory over the classic distance came in 2007, as well as top-three finishes in high-class marathons in London, Berlin, Rome and Seoul.

Her latest sub-2:30 came last year in the Dubai race and Karolina Jarzynska’s course record of 2:26:45 may not be beyond her.

Jarzynska, now known under her married name of Nadolska, was originally going to compete in Lodz but pulled out earlier this week citing lack of training in the wake of having given birth to her first child last year.

Nastassia Ivanova, of Belarus, is the next fastest on paper, albeit nearly six minutes behind Askale. Since placing second on her marathon debut in Krakow in 2011, she has improved to 2:27:24 while taking second place in Dusseldorf in 2012 and participated in the 2012 Olympic Games.

A second Ethiopian in the field, Bekelech Daba, only ran first marathon last November when she won in La Rochelle, but the big question mark will be how quickly she has recovered after her outing at the Nagoya Marathon last month, when she finished 12th in a personal best of 2:29:50.

However, with solid credentials at shorter distances, among them 1:10:09 in the half marathon last year, she may be set for another breakthrough.

Kenya’s Racheal Mutgaa is another runner without a long marathon career and her best of 2:30:11 was only set last December when she finished second in Guangzhou, so more improvement could be coming her way this weekend.

The race in Lodz will also feature the battle for the national women’s title in which Agnieszka Mierzejewska will start as clear favourite.

This will be her first marathon since taking second place in a personal best of 2:30:55 in the same race last year but Mierzejewska recently set a new half marathon best with 1:01:41, suggesting she could challenge both the Africans and the Polish federation’s Olympics qualifying standard of 2:30:00.

Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF