Kenyan distance runner Wilson Kipsang
Three reigning big city marathon champions lead the entries for the Mattoni Half Marathon Olomouc on 21 June as Wilson Kipsang takes on Dennis Kimetto at the IAAF Silver Label Road Race, with Edna Kiplagat favoured to win the women’s race.
Kipsang, the world record-holder for the marathon, regained his London Marathon title earlier this year, breaking the course record with his world-leading 2:04:29. In his only race since then, the Great Manchester 10km, he was defeated by multiple world record-holder Kenenisa Bekele, but Kipsang will be more at home with the longer 13.1 mile distance in Olomouc as he contests his first ever race in the Czech Republic.
The Olympic bronze medallist won the Granollers Half Marathon earlier this year and his PB of 58:59, set in 2009, makes him the fastest man in the field.
But he will have to contend with another big city marathon winner and world record-holder. Fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto last year won the Tokyo and Chicago marathons. In the latter, he clocked a course record of 2:03:45, just 22 seconds shy of Kipsang’s world record.
The Boston Marathon in April was Kimetto’s most recent race and he failed to finish, but his credentials – which include a 25km world record and a half-marathon PB of 59:14 – are hard to ignore.
Nicholas Bor is no stranger to the Czech Republic and has finished in the top eight in three other races in the country. The Kenyan has this year set PBs in both the 10km (28:18) and half marathon (1:01:25) and will be aiming for a top-three finish in Olomouc.
Japanese duo Kenji Yamamoto and Shota Hiraga have also been in PB form this year, clocking respective lifetime bests of 1:01:47 and 1:02:08 in Yamaguchi earlier this year.
Viktor Rothlin, the 2007 world bronze medallist and 2010 European champion, is the most experienced athlete in the field. The 39-year-old from Switzerland will be using this race as part of his preparations for this year’s European Championships on home soil.
Kiplagat both the favourite and target
While two-time world marathon champion Edna Kiplagat is undoubtedly the headline act in the women’s race, her opponents would have taken great encouragement from the fact that the Kenyan was beaten in her most recent race – which was also over the half-marathon distance.
Earlier this year, Kiplagat finally won the London Marathon after finishing second for three years in succession. But one month later, the relatively unheralded Visiline Jepkesho defeated her at the Gifu-Seiryu Half Marathon as Kiplagat clocked 1:11:18.
In Olomouc, Kiplagat will be aiming to be closer to her lifetime best of 1:07:41, but there’s a host of up-and-coming runners ready to take her on.
Aliaksandra Duliba of Belarus has broken numerous national records over the past two years. She recently clocked 2:21:29 at the Boston Marathon and passed the 13.1-mile mark in a half-marathon PB of 1:10:15, which suggests she is capable of running well below 70 minutes in a half-marathon race.
Kenya’s Janet Rono recently clocked one of the fastest times in history to win over 25km in Berlin, so she too could be set for a big revision of her half-marathon PB. Meanwhile Betelhem Moges, who has a PB of 1:10:37, won the recent Ceske Budejovice Half Marathon and will be looking for another strong performance in the Czech Republic.
Three of the top-20 finishers from this year’s IAAF World Half Marathon Championships are also in the field. At the global championships in Copenhagen, Ethiopian duo Mame Feysa and Hirut Alemayehu and Britain’s Alyson Dixon all set PBs when dipping below the 71-minute barrier – which, coincidentally, is what it took to defeat Kiplagat earlier this year.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF