Stephen Mokoka wins the 2015 Shanghai Marathon (© Organisers)
South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka is looking to regain the title at the Shanghai International Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (30).
It will be the sixth straight year for the 31-year-old Mokoka to run in Shanghai. He finished third in 2011 and fourth in 2012 before claiming back-to-back victories in 2013 and 2014. Although he clocked a personal best time of 2:07:40 last year, Mokoka finished as runner-up behind Kenya’s Paul Lonyangata. The Kenyan’s winning time of 2:07:14 also beat the course record of 2:08:43 set by Mokoka in 2014.
Mokoka is yet to register a marathon result this year, but did finish second at the Port Elizabeth Half Marathon in July and 18th in the 10,000m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. His quest, in spite of Lonyangata’s absence, will still be met with a tough challenge on Sunday as the entry list also includes others with sub-2:08 credentials.
Ethiopia’s Markos Geneti could be a big threat. The 32-year-old, who was the world youth 3000m champion in 2001, set his personal best of 2:04:54 when finishing third at the 2012 Dubai Marathon. He also finished second in Dubai two years later in 2:05:13 and sixth at the Tokyo Marathon in 2:07:25 last year. But like Mokoka, he is yet to prove his form over the classic distance in 2016.
The 23-year-old Asbel Kipsang will also be a serious contender. The Kenyan cut nearly two minutes from his PB to 2:07:30 to finish sixth at the 2016 Seoul Marathon. Since his marathon debut in 2014, Kipsang has won three of his four races over the distance.
The men’s field also includes Qatar’s Essa Ismail Rashed, who has a PB of 2:07:54 from his fourth place finish in Amsterdam in 2014, although his best mark this season was a modest 2:16:40 at Chongqing Marathon.
Kiyara read to defend
The women’s race will witness a rematch between last year’s winner Rael Nguriatukei Kiyara and runner-up Letebrhan Haylay.
The 32-year-old Kiyara, whose PB is 2:25:23 set in 2011 when finishing fourth in Eindhoven, last year became the first female winner from Kenya in the 16-year history of the Shanghai Marathon. She rallied to outrace Ethiopia’s Haylay after the 36km mark and never looked back before wrapping up the victory in 2:26:23.
Kiyara has won races in Madrid, Graz, Padua and Luxembourg and also set the course record at the Lanzhou Marathon last year. Her best performance in 2016 was a sixth place finish in 2:28:46 at the Prague Marathon in May.
Haylay, who will celebrate her 26th birthday on Saturday, has been enjoying a successful season so far. She clocked 2:36:51 to win at the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon in January and went on to take the victory at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2:26:15 in April. The race in Shanghai will be her third marathon this season and the sixth to date for the consistent Ethiopian, who made her debut earlier last year and achieved a PB of 2:25:24 in Prague.
Haylay’s countrywoman Koren Jelela has also proven her strength with a marathon victory in 2016, clocking a winning time of 2:27:06 in Ottawa. She is the fastest among the entrants with a 2:22:43 clocking from Toronto in 2011. Last year in Frankfurt, Jelela clocked 2:23:52 to take third.
The entrants also include sub-2:25 runners Biruktayit Eshetu of Ethiopia, who can boast of a 2:23:51 career best and a 2:26:07 victory at this year’s Houston Marathon. Turkey’s Sultan Haydar, the national record holder at 2:24:44 set in 2015, was fifth in Shanghai last year.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF