Reigning champions Georgina Rono and Evans Sambu, both from Kenya, are looking to defending their titles at the 2017 Taiyuan International Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (10).
The 37-year-old Rono pulled away after 40 kilometres to win in 2:32:56 in the western Chinese city of Taiyuan last year, more than three minutes shy of the course record of 2:29:52 set by countrywoman Emmah Muthoni Kiruki back in 2010.
This time Rono is still seen as among the favourites as the 2014 Hamburg Marathon winner is the quickest woman in contention thanks to her 2:21:39 effort from the 2012 Frankfurt Marathon, where she finished second. Her last appearance came in May when she clocked 2:28:52 to finish third at the Yellow River Estuary International Marathon in Dongying, China, which is her best result since 2015.
Chemtai Rionotukei of Kenya, who turns 31 on Monday, will be Rono’s stiffest rival in Taiyuan. As the winner of 2016 Dongguan Marathon, Rionotukei outraced Rono in Dongying, where she bettered her personal best by more than eight minutes to finish second in 2:26:30.
Ayelu Abebe Hordofa of Ethiopia also renewed her PB this season. She improved her career best by nearly six minutes to win the Wuxi Marathon in 2:29:17.
Kenya’s Emily Chemutai Ngetich will be another serious contender with a PB of 2:25:14 from her fourth place finish at the Frankfurt Marathon in 2014. She clocked a modest 2:39:44 to finish seventh in Barcelona this year and is ready to bounce back from that sub-par outcome.
The women’s field also includes three sub-2:30 runners, who are all from Kenya. The 36-year-old veteran Ruth Wanjiru set her PB of 2:27:38 at the 2009 Osaka Marathon but has not dipped under the 2:30 barrier since 2015. Leah Jebet Kiprono clocked a wining mark of 2:27:40 at the 2016 Zheng-Kai Marathon while Sheila Cherotich registered 2:28:53 in what was her marathon debut to finish third in Chongqing in March.
In the men’s race defending champion Sambu will also face tough challenge. Last year he clocked a career best mark of 2:11:34 to win in Taiyuan and went on to improve it to 2:10:28 when taking the Shenzhen Marathon in December.
The 24-year-old continued to prove his consistency in Chongqing this year with another 2:11:34 performance. But on Sunday he will be facing a deep field that includes four sub-2:10 runners.
Ethiopia’s Azmeraw Bekele is the fastest man on paper with a PB of 2:07:12 from his fifth place finish at the 2014 Dubai Marathon. He ran in Dubai again this January and clocked 2:10:22 to finish seventh.
The 30-year-old Qatari Essa Ismail Rashed brings a PB of 2:07:54 to the line when he finished fourth in Amsterdam in 2014. But the former Asian 10,00m champion has been struggling to return to his peak in recent years, failing to break 2:10 since 2015 and only finishing 16th in Dongying this year in 2:26:33.
Kenya’s Cosmas Kiplimo Lagat is also a candidate to break the course record of 2:08:51 in Taiyuan, which was set by Tolcha Berhanu Shiferaw of Ethiopia in 2012.
The 26-year-old Lagat is a two-time champion of the Sevilla Marathon. In 2014 he entered the race as a pacemaker, but snatched a surprise victory and set the course record of 2:08:33 on his marathon debut. Two years later he returned to Sevilla and improved the course record to 2:08:14. It will be his first time running in China.
Josphat Kiprono Leting, also from Kenya, is another man to watch. The 29-year-old clocked a PB of 2:09:56 to finish fourth in Rabat in March.
Launched in 2010, the Taiyuan International Marathon is expected to draw some 7000 runners in the marathon races and around 23,000 others who will run in the spin-off half marathon and 4.2195k fun run events.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF