Kenyans Geoffrey Koech and Fancy Chemutai lead the fields at the Birell Prague Grand Prix 10km, an IAAF Gold Label road race, in the Czech capital on Saturday (7).
On the men's side, the main draw is Koech, who clocked 27:18 in this race last year, the 13th fastest performance of all time, to finish second. More recently the 26-year-old finished fourth at the Prague Half Marathon in April, clocking 1:00:30.
He'll face compatriot Vincent Kiprotich Kibet, who produced a 27:21 run to win in Berlin just over one year ago. Kibet, who turned 20 in March, has shown good form this year too, clocking 27:35 to win in Wurzburg in April and 27:24.09 on the track in July.
But perhaps in most impressive form is 22-year-old Ethiopian Jemal Yimer, who set his 27:54 best on the roads in Prague in 2017 before racing to the African 10,000m title in Asaba, Nigeria, last year. Yimer broke the Ethiopian record in the half marathon in Valencia last October, clocking an impressive 58:33. In July, he finished fifth in the Ethiopian 10,000m trials race for the World Championships in Hengelo, clocking 26:54.39, a lifetime best.
Others to watch include Kenya's Benard Kimeli, the winner of the Prague Half Marathon earlier this year, and Vedic Kipkoech, who improved his 10km best to 27:25 in Valencia in January.
On the women's side, Chemutai, the thrid fastest woman of all time on the roads with 30:06, will be looking to break the event's 30-minute barrier. Chemutai turned in that performance in Prague in 2017 when she chased Joycilene Jeppkosgei who eventually shattered the world record with her extraordinary 29:43 run. Chemutai, 24, impressed in Boston in June, winning a 10km there in 30:36.
She'll face 20-year-old Gloria Kite, who went even faster this year, clocking 30:26 in Valencia in January and currently sits in the No.9 position on the world all-time list. Steeplechase standout Norah Jeruto, who beat world record-holder Beatrice Chepkoech at the IAAF Diamond League stop in Oslo in June, could also be a factor.
Organisers for the IAAF
Kimutai to face tough title defence in Taiyuan
Defending champion Alice Jepkemboi Kimutai of Kenya will compete in the Taiyuan International Marathon on Sunday (8), aiming to retain her title amid a quality field at the IAAF Gold Label road race.
Last year Kimutai landed a surprising victory as she outraced compatriot Chemutai Rionotukei, who set the course record of 2:29:36 in the central Chinese city in 2017, in the final stage of the race, cutting more than 13 minutes off her personal best to win in 2:31:54.
Kimutai, who will turn 27 on Saturday, also clocked 2:32:00 from her fourth-place finish in Chongqing in March, but will take on a deep field that contains 10 sub-2:30 runners.
Flomena Chepchirchir is the fastest entrant, although her PB of 2:23:00 dates back to 2013. The 37-year-old Kenya has been experiencing a six-year title drought and will be keen to prove her worth following her third-place finish in Taiyuan last year.
Ethiopian duo Hayimot Alemayehu and Yetsehay Desalegn are both among the favourites. The 29-year-old Alemayehu set her PB of 2:25:51 to finish second in Seville last February while the 27-year-old Desalegn achieved her PB of 2:27:35 in Hangzhou last November and managed to step on to the podium in her three most recent marathons.
Fellow Ethiopian Tsehay Gebre is another serious contender. She arrives in Taiyuan off the back of two victories, having won in Kunming last December and Wuxi six month ago, taking five minutes off her PB with 2:28:06.
Ethiopia’s Lemelem Berha will also arrive in Taiyuan with high spirits. The 27-year-old recorded a PB of 2:28:52 to win in Castellon in February.
The men’s course record of 2:08:51, set by Kenya’s Berhanu Shiferaw back in 2012, also looks vulnerable as the organisers have assembled 11 sub-2:10 runners for Sunday’s race.
Kenya’s Eliud Kiptanui is the fastest man on paper with a PB of 2:05:21, set when finishing second at the 2012 Berlin Marathon. The 30-year-old has remained competitive since then, but his only outing this year was a seventh-place finish in Xiamen in 2:14:15.
Marius Kimutai of Bahrain set his career best of 2:05:47 three years ago in Amsterdam and then came close to that mark with a 2:06:04 victory in Rotterdam in 2017. Most recently, the former winner in Rennes and Danzhou clocked 2:10:37 to finish fourth in Chongqing in March.
Ethiopia’s Birhanu Bekele is arguably the most in-form runner in the field. The 38-year-old veteran trimmed more than three minutes off his PB to finish third in Seville in 2:06:41. He also collected two victories last year in Wuxi and Krakow respectively before finishing eighth at last year’s Shanghai Marathon in 2:11:46.
Bekele’s compatriot Limenih Getachew is another man to watch on Sunday. Although his PB of 2:06:49 dates back to 2014, the 29-year-old registered his second lifetime best in Barcelona six months ago when he clocked 2:07:30 to finish fifth. He also took the top honours in Lisbon last year with a winning mark of 2:07:34.
The field also includes Ethiopia’s Fikadu Girma, whose PB of 2:08:43 was set in January from his victory in Marrakesh, Kenya’s Mike Kiprotich Mutai, who finished second at the 2013 edition of the race in Taiyuan, as well as Kenya’s Justus Kimutai, who clocked 2:07:58 to finish third in Lisbon last year and scored a 2:11:47 victory at the Lanzhou Marathon three months ago.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF