Tebalu Zawude out-kicks Charles Ogari to win the Paris 20km
Ethiopian and Kenyans contingents are expected to battle for victory at the 37th Zurich Maratón de Sevilla, a World Athletics Gold Label road race, on Sunday (23).
The race boasts one of the flattest courses worldwide and the new circuit inaugurated last year witnessed race records set by Ethiopian duo Ayana Tsedat (2:06:36) and Guteni Shone (2:24:29).
Kenya’s Barnabas Kiptum is in the form of his life following a 2:06:33 PB in Lisbon last October. Over the past three years the 33-year-old has shown great consistency, having bettered 2:10 six times. He will be joined by compatriots Emmanuel Kibet, a 2:08:42 performer in Rabat last year, Michael Kunyunga (2:10:05) and Stanley Kiptotich (2:10:12).
The large Ethiopian contingent is headed by Birhane Bekele and Tebalu Zawude; the former finished third last year in a lifetime best of 2:06:41 although the 38-year-old has raced only once at any distance since then with a 2:11:08 outing in Taiyuan last September while Zawude won the last Rome marathon in 2:08:37 in April 2019.
Other Ethiopians include Bazu Worku, who clocked 2:06:15 as an U20 athlete back in 2009. The 29-year-old has not approached that kind of time in recent years, but he clocked a respectable 2:10:56 in Beijing in November.
Yet the quickest athlete on show will be 2:04:50 performer Dino Sefer, but the 31-year-old Ethiopian will be contesting his first competition in more than two years. Getu Feleke, who boasts an identical PB of 2:04:50 from 2012, had a best last year of 2:10:39.
Sunday’s event will also serve as the Spanish championships for the distance. Javier Guerra, who set a career best of 2:08:33 a couple of years ago, is fresh from a 10km PB of 28:11 in Valencia last month and might also be a factor. Same goes for Hamid Ben Daoud, a 2:08:14 performer. The 24-year-old ran a fine 28:06 at the San Silvestre Vallecana at the end of December. The fight for the Spanish title promises to be thrilling with Juan Antonio Pérez, a 1:00:58 half marathon performer, also in the hunt for the win.
Likewise, the women's race doesn’t have a clear favourite. The cast is led by Ethiopia’s Sifan Melaku, who finished fourth last year in a PB of 2:26:46 and went on to improve to 2:25:29. She will be joined by fellow Ethiopians Bezabeh Fitaw, who made her debut last November in 2:29:15 in Hefei, Bekelu Beji, holder of a 2:28:21 time, and Melkaw Gizaw, who won in Nanchang last November and has a PB of 2:24:28 from 2016.
Kenya’s Purity Changwony should be in contention for victory on Sunday as the 30-year-old ran 2:30:34 to win in the altitude of Nairobi last October. Josephine Jepkoech, the runner-up at last year’s Barcelona Marathon in a PB of 2:25:20, will also try to get a podium spot.
Watch out too for Uganda’s Juliet Chekwel. The 29-year-old, who has PBs of 1:09:45 over the half marathon and 31:37:99 at the 10,000m, will be making her debut over the classic distance. The Ugandan’s last outing came in Madrid on the New Year’s eve when she finished fourth in 32:13.
The European charge will be headed by Poland’s Izabela Trzaskalska, fresh from a 1:11:09 lifetime best at the Seville Half Marathon four weeks ago; the 32-year-old seems ready to improve on her marathon best of 2:29:57 set in 2017. Spain’s Marta Galimany, who came second in Seville in a PB of 1:11:13, and Germany’s Anja Scherl (2:27:50) will also fight to finish inside the top 10 on Sunday.
The course will pass several iconic landmarks, including La Giralda, one of the largest cathedrals in the world, and the La Real Maestranza bullring or ‘La Torre del Oro’. A record number of 13,500 runners from 86 countries have entered. The forecast calls for sunny conditions with temperatures between 14-16C at the start.
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics