Ethiopian and Kenyans contingents are expected to battle for victory at the 35th Zurich Maratón de Sevilla, an IAAF Gold Label road race, on Sunday (17).
The race has boasted one of the flattest courses worldwide and will inaugurate a new circuit on Sunday to once again target both the men’s and women’s race records.
The large Ethiopian contingent includes Belay Afesa, holder of a 2:07:10 lifetime best set in Hamburg five years ago, sub-2:10 runners Seboka Nigusse (2:09:14) and Ayana Tsedat (2:09:26) and sub-11 men Melaku Bechalew (2:10:31) and Regasa Mindaye (2:10:51).
Meanwhile, the Kenyan challenge will be led by Samuel Kiplimo Kosgei, whose 2:06:53 career best dates back to 2016. More recently, he ran 2:09:07 last October in Gyeongju. Another contender is Jonah Chesum, winner of the 2017 Barcelona marathon with a lifetime best of 2:08:57. He last raced in October's Lisbon Marathon clocking 2:10:08.
Eritrea’s Yohanes Gebregergish boasts a 2:08:14 career best from the 2017 Tokyo Marathon. He clocked 2:11:27 in Valencia in December, his last outing. His countryman Okubay Tsegay will be the designated pacemaker chargeed with leading the main group to the 30 kilometre checkpoint. The scheduled split for the half is 1:03:30, well inside the pace required to challenge the 2:07:43 course record set by Kenyan Titus Ekiru two years ago.
Likewise, the women's race is wide open.
Ethiopia’s Hiwot Gebrekidan, who arrives on the heels of a 1:07:36 half marathon personal best set in Copenhagen in September, is among the athletes to beat. The 23-year-old will be aiming to improve on her personal best of 2:25:45 set in 2017. Guteni Shone is the quickest woman in Sunday’s line-up thanks to a 2:23:32 outing in Houston in 2015, though she was far from that in her last appearance, a 2:31:41 effort in Lisbon last October.
Other Ethiopians on show include Aynalem Kassahun (PB 2:28:18) and Meskerem Abera (2:28:35). Kenya will be represented by Susan Jeptoo who set her 2:30:50 best in Prague last year.
European hopes rest on two debutants: Sweden’s 2014 European 3000m steeplechase silver medallist Charlotta Fougberg, who has a 1:11:58 half marathon best to her credit, and 24-year-old Dutchwoman Jip Vastenburg, who clocked 1:11:04 for the half marathon in Valencia in 2017.
The 2:25:35 course record was set last year by Moroccan Kaoutar Boulaidran, who has struggled with injury since. Still on the mend, she won’t be back to defend her title.
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’. Worth noting: Spaniard Abel Antón, who raced to the world marathon title in Seville in 1999, will pace his former training partner Fermín Cacho, the 1992 Olympic 1500m champion, who has set a 4:00 target - one day after celebrating his 50th birthday.
12,500 runners from 72 countries have entered. The forecast calls for partly sunny conditions with temperatures between 14-15C at the start.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF
Wanders and Hassan headline inaugural Monaco 5km
European half marathon record holders Julien Wanders and Sifan Hassan will headline the inaugural 5km Herculis in Monaco on Sunday (17).
Wanders will arrive in the principality riding strong momentum, taking to the line just nine days after breaking Mo Farah's European half marathon record in Ras Al Khaimah with a 59:13 performance. Less than six weeks earlier on 30 December, the 22-year-old rising Swiss star clocked 27:25 at a 10km in Houilles, France, to clip 19 seconds from another one of Farah's European records.
He'll take on Sondre Nordstad Moen of Norway, the former continental record holder in the marathon whose 2:05:48 performance from Fukuoka in 2017 ranks him second among Europeans all-time.
Others in the field include Francois Barrer of France, who has a 13:27.69 5000m lifetime best on the track.
Hassan also arrives after a sensational 2018 season which began with 3000m silver and 1500m bronze at the World Indoor Championships in March and ended with a 1:05:15 European half marathon record in Copenhagen in September. In between, Hassan also broke the European 5000m on the track, clocking 14:22.34 in Rabat. The 26-year-old will be making her 2019 debut in this race and will start as the overwhelming favourite.
Among those giving chase will be Briton Laura Weightman, a two-time Olympic 1500m finalist and bronze medallist over the distance at last year's European Championships, and Italian marathoner Sara Dossena, who was seventh at the Berlin Marathon last year, clocking a 2:27:53 personal best.
The race is organised in partnership with organisers of Monaco's Herculis EBS IAAF Diamond League meeting.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF