The women’s race will be in the spotlight at the 23rd edition of the ACEA Rome Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday (2).
Ethiopia has a proud tradition in the Italian capital and it looks set to continue on Sunday, when a group from the east African country will target the course record of 2:22:52 set by Galina Bogomolova in 2008.
The women’s field is led by Ethiopia’s Koren Jelela, Workenesh Edesa, Wude Ayalew and Rahma Tusa.
Jelela set her personal best of 2:22.43 when winning the 2011 Toronto Marathon. She returned to Canada last year and won the Ottawa Marathon in a season’s best of 2:27:06. Edesa triumphed in Xiamen last year in a PB of 2:24:04 and finished second there this year in 2:26:27.
Ayalew, the 2009 world 10,000m bronze medallist, set a marathon PB of 2:27:08 in Shanghai last year. This weekend’s race will be just her third marathon to date. Tusa won in Rome last year with a PB of 2:28:49.
Other Ethiopians in the field include Konjit Biruk Tilahun, who set her personal best of 2:28:11 in Dubai in 2014, and Abeba Tokuli Gebremeskei who has a PB of 2:28:10.
The Kenyan challenge will be led by Esther Chemtai Ndiema, who set her PB of 2:28:41 in Turin in 2014, and Beatrice Jelagat Cherop, who recently improved her personal best by 10 minutes to 2:31:07.
The men’s field also has a strong Ethiopian contingent. 2014 winner Shume Hailu will return to the Italian capital in a bid to become the first man to win twice in Rome. The 29-year-old’s personal best of 2:09:06 dates back to 2011, while his fastest time last year was 2:11:41.
With a best of 2:06:22 from the 2012 Amsterdam Marathon, fellow Ethiopian Adane Bentayehu is the fastest runner in the field, but the last time he ran faster than 2:10 was back in 2013.
Shura Kitata finished a respectable third in Xiamen earlier this year in 2:10:36, finishing within a couple of minutes of his 2:08:53 PB. Mesfin Teshome will be aiming to improve on the 2:09:24 PB he set on his marathon debut in Dubai last year. Dereje Tadesse is another Ethiopian in the field with a sub-2:10 PB.
Kenya’s Dominic Ruto will be looking to improve on his third-place finish from last year’s edition of the Rome Marathon where he clocked a PB of 2:09:28. Kenya will be also represented by Barnabas Kiptum, who clocked his lifetime best of 2:09:21 in Cape Town in 2016.
Italian hopes will be carried by national champion Ahmed Nasef, whose best performance last year was 2:18:32.
The course is similar to that of last year and will pass through the most famous symbols of the Eternal City, including St Peter’s, the Synagogue and the Mosque. The world-famous Via dei Fori Imperiali will host the start and the finish. The start line is placed towards Piazza Venezia in Via Teatro Marcello, while the finish-line is located in front of the Colosseum.
More than 16,000 runners from 130 countries have entered the Acea Rome Marathon. A non-competitive 4km fun run will also be held.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF