Lucy Karimi wins the Prague Marathon (Organisers) © Copyright

Weekend road preview: course record assaults on tap in Hefei, Xichang and Nanchang

Much of the attention of this weekend’s road racing scene will fall on China, with marathons in Hefei, Xichang, Nanjing and Nanchang on the Road Race Label slate. The action begins on Saturday with the Xichang Qionghai Lake Wetland International Marathon.

Chepkoech targets course record in Xichang

Josephine Chepkoech of Kenya will be one of the main favourites at 2019 Xichang Qionghai Lake Wetland International Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race whose sixth edition will take place on Saturday (9).

As the fastest woman in the field, the 30-year-old Chepkoech, who debuted over the classic distance last October in Nairobi with a winning mark of 2:33:11, has been enjoying a flying year of 2019.

She set a personal best of 2:25:20 to finish second in Barcelona in March and went on to win the Geneva Marathon in 2:29:11 two months later. Her latest outing is a second finish two months ago in Sydney where she clocked 2:26:43 to finish second.

Sunday’s race in the southwestern Chinese city will be Chepkoech’s fifth marathon and she will be looking to continue her momentum and meanwhile targeting on the 2:30:26 course record set by Ethiopia’s Biruktayit Eshetu at the inaugural edition of the race in 2014.

Naomi Jepkosgei Maiyo, 30, has the potential to make an impact as well. It will be the her fourth marathon of the year, as the Kenyan collected two victories in Taipei and Melbourne before finishing sixth in Changsha two weeks ago.

Maiyo set her PB of 2:31:30 two years ago in Cape Town and has marathon titles in Kuala Lumpur, Athens and Casablanca to her name.

The women’s field also include China’s Gong Lihua, who clocked a PB of 2:31:05 in Seoul last March, and Sana Achahbar of Morocco, whose PB of 2:32:36 was achieved two years ago in Marrakesh.

The men’s course record of 2:12:48 set by Noah Kipruto Chepngabit of Kenya has also stood for five years. But this time it will face a serious challenge in front of a quality field.

Oleksandr Sitkovskyy is the fastest man on paper with a PB of 2:09:11 set in Marrakech four years ago. The 41-year-old Ukrainian Olympian has earned vast experience competing in China and most recently finished fifth at the Beijing Marathon in 2:11:25 last week.

Josphat Letting of Kenya clocked his PB of 2:09:34 back in 2013 but has remained competitive in recent years including clocking 2:09:45 to win the 2017 Rennes Marathon and scoring a 2:12:42 victory in Tallinn two months ago.

The 33-year-old Kennedy Kwemoi is another sub-2:10 runners with his career best time of 2:09:54 being set eight years ago in Porto. Last year Kwemoi clocked 2:20:54 to finish fifth in Xichang, and being familiar with the course will be an advantage for the highest ranked returner.

Other title candidates including Kenya’s William Nyarondia, 2018 Copenhagen Marathon winner with a PB of 2:11:15, and his countryman Paul Waweru, a 2:12:24 performer who won the Odense Marathon in 2017.

Vincent Wu for the IAAF


Course record under threat in Hefei

There will be serious attempts to break the women’s course record at the 2019 Hefei International Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday (10).

Organisers have gathered eight sub-2:30 runners in the women’s field, four of whom have run faster than the 2:28:20 course record set by Magdalene Masai of Kenya last year.

Three-time Buenos Aires Marathon winner Lucy Karimi set her personal best of 2:24:46 when taking the top honours in Prague three years ago. The 33-year-old Kenyan has been consistent in recent seasons, finishing on the podium in her five marathon races since January 2015 including a 2:26:16 to finish third in Los Angeles in March.

Ethiopia’s Muluhabt Tsega, 30, achieved her career best time of 2:25:48 last year from a fifth finish in Shanghai. She has collected titles over the classic distance in Hangzhou, Taiyuan and Beirut and her most recent outing is a second finish at the Roma Marathon in 2:26:41 seven month ago.

Caroline Chepkwony of Kenya will arrive in Hefei with high spirits as she knocked 27 seconds off her PB to set a winning mark of 2:27:00 at the Enschede Marathon in April. The 34-year-old also won the Ljubljana Marathon in 2013.

Tigist Memuye also improved her PB this season. The 29-year-old Ethiopian clocked 2:27:35 to finish second in Hannover in April. And her previous marathon title was taken in 2017 when she clocked 2:27:39 to win in Zhengzhou.

Kenya’s Agnes Kiprop is also a woman to watch on Sunday. The 39-year-old veteran is the fastest runner on paper in the field thanks to her lifetime best of 2:23:54 set in 2011. She has remained a high level of competitiveness, clocking 2:29:04 to finish fourth in Dongying seven months ago and winning the 2018 Hannover Marathon in 2:32:35.

The men’s field is led by Kenya’s Julius Tuwei, the 2016 Danzhou Marathon winner who has a PB of 2:08:06. This will be his third marathon of the year, having finished 12th in Hong Kong and third in Riga.

The 27-year-old Abdela Godana is a serious title contender. He set his lifetime best mark last year from a third finish in Seoul and also scored his first marathon title in Nagano in 2:13:54. This year Godana clocked 2:09:04 to finish second in Beppu and earned a fourth finish in Hannover in 2:13:14.

Kenya’s Douglas Chebii, who is still chasing his first title after his marathon debut in 2014, also has a PB faster than the 2:08:54 course record set three years ago by Woldaregay Kelkile Gezahegn of Ethiopia. The 26-year-old Chebii achieved his PB of 2:08:43 to finish fifth in Sevilla last February and clocked 2:12:49 in Dongying seven months ago.

Other sub-2:10 runners in the field include Jonah Chesum of Kenya, who set a PB of 2:08:57 in his marathon debut two years ago in Barcelona, and Ethiopia’s Yihunilign Adane, whose PB of 2:09:11 was achieved this year in Beppu.

Vincent Wu for the IAAF


Jerotich and Beji the women’s favourites in Nanchang

Sheila Jerotich of Kenya and Ethiopian Bekelu Beji will be the star attraction at the Nanchang International Marathon on Sunday (10), as the pair will not only target the women’s victory but also the course record at this IAAF Bronze Label road race.

Jerotich is arguably the most in-form runner in the women’s field. It will be her seventh international marathon; she’s finished on the podium in five of her previous six outings, including her victories in Kosice and Warsaw.

The 30-year-old debuted over the classic distance two years ago in China as she clocked 2:28:53 to finish third at the Chongqing Marathon. Seven months later Jerotich broke the course record in Kosice with a 2:27:34 victory. And most recently, the consistent Kenyan lifted her personal best to 2:26:06 en route to renew the course record at Warsaw Marathon in April.

The 20-year-old Beji is another title contender and candidate to attack the 2:35:11 course record set by local runner Jin Mingming last year. As the winner of 2017 Warsaw Marathon and 2018 Changsha Marathon, Beji improved her PB to 2:28:21 from a second finish in Wuxi in March.

After failing to finish at the Taiyuan International Marathon in September and giving up her title defence at the Changsha Marathon last month, Beji is keen to improve her only sub-2:30 performance to date is not a flash in the pan.

Flomena Chepchirchir is the fastest entrant on paper with a PB of 2:23:00. But the 37-year-old Kenya achieved that mark six years ago and hasn’t dipped under 2:30 since 2013.

Mongolia’s Munkhzaya Bayartsogt, 26, is the other sub-2:30 runner toeing the line. The past Taipei, Gunsan and Ulaanbaatar marathon winner set a lifetime best of 2:29:18 in Gold Coast four month ago.

Sunday’s race in the Chinese city will be her third marathon in less than two months as Bayartsogt also competed in the World Championships in Doha as well as the Military World Games in Wuhan. 

The men’s course record of 2:13:26 set by last year’s winner Douglas Kimeli of Kenya will also face serious threat as the organisers have attracted five sub-2:10 runners in the field.

Joseph Aperumoi lead the field with a career best of 2:08:26 set two years ago in Amsterdam. But the 29-year-old Kenyan is subpar in the current season with a lackluster 17th finish in Dalian in 2:31:08 six months ago.

Fellow Kenyan Edwin Kimaiyo set his PB of 2:09:12 from a fourth finish in Shanghai in 2017. The 33-year-old is more consistent than Aperumoi with his most recent performance being a fifth finish in Hannover in 2:13:25.

Ethiopia’s Werkunesh Seyoum owns the fastest season best in the field. The former Kunsan and Mannheim marathon winner achieved a third finish in Warsaw with a 2:10:42 clocking in April, more than one minute shy of his 2:09:25 PB set in Rome two years ago.

The field also include Kenyan duo Mike Kiprotich Mutai, 2016 Hong Kong Marathon winner with a PB of 2:09:18 that dates back to 2012, and David Tarus whose PB of 2:09:24 was set in Eindhoven in 2009.

Vincent Wu for the IAAF

Korir takes on Kipchirchir in Nanjing

The fifth edition of Nanjing Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race, will take place on Sunday (10) with Kenyan duo Ronald Kipkoech Korir and Stephen Kipchirchir among the main favourites in the men’s race.

The 28-year-old Korir is the fastest entrant in the field thanks to his personal best of 2:07:29 set five years ago in Frankfurt. He achieved his first marathon title in January with a winning time of 2:13:36 in Muscat and last month Korir clocked 2:09:46 when finishing second in Rennes.

His biggest opposition on Sunday may come from Kenyan compatriot Stephen Kipchirchir, who ran his career best of 2:11:44 to win the 2017 Brussels Marathon. The 29-year-old has maintained his consistency in recent seasons, clocking 2:11:45 in Linz and 2:11:53 in Nairobi. He was also a winner at the Sofia Marathon last October in 2:14:06.

Paul Kios Kangogo is another sub-2:10 runner in the field. The 30-year-old set a PB of 2:09:20 to finish third in Rome two years ago, but has been relatively below-par so far this year as he clocked 2:16:47 to settle for the sixth place in Beijing last week.

The Kenyan contingent also includes Alphonce Kibiwott, who clocked 2:09:49 to finish third at the 2016 Rennes Marathon, as well as Willy Ngelel, winner of the 2017 Dalian Marathon.

Prolific Chinese runner Li Zhixuan will run her eighth race of the year in Nanjing, the capital city of China’s Jiangsu Province.

The 25-year-old has registered three sub-2:30 marks in 2019. After setting a lifetime best of 2:26:15 in Nagoya eight months ago, she went on to grab a runner-up finish in Chongqing in 2:27:56 and clocked 2:29:06 to finish second in Beijing last week, which means she will not be running with fresh legs on Sunday.

Choi Kyungsun has also improved her PB this season. The 27-year-old from the Republic of Korea has established herself as one of the best marathon runners in her country. After earning the bronze medal at last year’s Asian Games in Jakarta, she improved her best mark to 2:29:06 with a third-place finish in Daegu in April, putting her seventh on the Korean all-time list. Last month she clocked 2:32:26 when winning at the National Sports Games.

Faith Cheruto Chemaoi is another woman to watch in Nanjing. The Kenyan, who turns 40 on Saturday, owns a 2:28:54 career best, which she ran to finish second at the 2013 Valencia Marathon. This will be her third marathon of year, having finished fourth in Sao Paulo and third in Buenos Aires with a season’s best of 2:32:48.

Vincent Wu for the IAAF