Previews16 Nov 2019

Weekend road preview: Melese and Lonyangata return to Shanghai, course records under threat in Kobe


Yebrqual Melese wins the Shanghai Marathon (© AFP / Getty Images)

Defending champion Yebrgual Melese and 2015 winner Paul Lonyangata, the course record-holders of the Shanghai International Marathon, will return to the World Athletics Gold Label road race on Sunday (17).

Ethiopia’s Melese won comfortably last year, taking more than a minute off the course record with 2:20:36.

A past winner of the Houston and Prague marathons, Melese set a PB of 2:19:36 when finishing third in Dubai last year, but her form in 2019 hasn’t been quite so good. The 29-year-old finished 11th in Tokyo in March in 2:31:40 but last month clocked a promising 1:09:02 at the Lisbon Half Marathon.

Fellow Ethiopian Waganesh Mekasha is another title contender. The 27-year-old reduced her PB by more than three minutes to finish fourth in Dubai in January in 2:22:45 and went on to clock 2:23:19 at the Yellow River Estuary International Marathon in Dongying seven months ago.

The Ethiopian contingent also includes Fantu Jimma, a 32-year-old with a PB of 2:26:14 set four years ago in Xiamen. It will be Jimma’s fourth marathon of the year, having won in Wuhan in 2:28:25 and finished third in Xiamen and Lanzhou. She was also victorious at the Changzhou West Taihu Lake Half Marathon last month.

Lonyangata is among the main favourites in the men’s race. The 26-year-old Kenyan set his PB of 2:06:10 when winning the 2017 Paris Marathon, the first of two victories in the French capital. He set the Shanghai course record of 2:07:14 in 2015 and has a season’s best of 2:07:29, set when finishing third in Paris.

Bahrain’s Hassan El Abbassi is another top contender. The 35-year-old, who set his marathon PB of 2:04:43 in Valencia last year, is the 2014 Asian Games 10,000m champion and 2018 Asian Games marathon silver medallist. More recently he finished seventh in the marathon at the World Championships in Doha in 2:11:44 but is still in pursuit of his first international marathon title.

Kipsang Kipkemoi will compete in China for the first time in his career. The 29-year-old Kenyan clocked his PB of 2:08:26 in Seville in 2017 and came close to that in April when he finished second in Madrid with 2:08:58. Sunday’s race will be his fourth marathon of the year as he has also competed in Mumbai and Cape Town but didn’t better 2:10 on either occasion.

Other sub-2:10 runners in the field include Kenya’s 2011 world silver medallist Vincent Kipruto and Ernest Ngeno, a 2:06:41 performer who finished second in Shanghai two years ago.

Vincent Wu for World Athletics

Girma aims to retain title at Boulogne-Billancourt half marathon

Taye Girma will be looking for a second consecutive victory at the Boulogne-Billancourt Christian Grangier Half-Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race,on Sunday (17). 

Last year the 23-year-old Ethiopian displayed his skills when winning the event in his debut over the distance, clocking 1:00:55 which remains his personal best. Girma ran 1:02:45 in Changzhou last October and clocked a 10km season’s best of 28:33, 27 seconds outside his PB.

His main opponent should be Precious Mashele, who rounded out the podium at last’s year edition in 1:01:17, 22 seconds adrift of Girma. The 29-year-old South African ran 1:01:19 in July, just two seconds outside of the best career he set in Boulogne-Billancourt last year. Mashele clocked a 10km personal best of 28:26 one month ago in Durban.

Kenya’s Felix Kipkoech will also have a role to play following his April win in Rabat in 1:01:24.

Elisa Kibret will be another contender. The 26-year-old Ethiopian set his 10km career best in Langueux, France, in June (28:34) as his 1:02:00 half marathon best dates back to 2016.

Debutante Selemun Kashsay, who clocked a 10km best of 28:00 in January, could also be a factor.

French hopes will rest on the shoulders of Félix Bour Yoseph Goasdoué, who have bests of 1:04:18 and 1:04:20 respectively.

The course record of 1:00:11 set by Franklin Chepwony in 2013 shouldn’t be in jeopardy.

The women’s race will likely come down a duel between Nancy Jelagat of Kenya and Silenat Ysmaw of Ethiopia. Jelagat has a personal best of 1:10:18 when winning in Hamburg last year. She also won the 2018 Treviso Marathon in 2:36:22 as well as Nairobi 10km three weeks ago in 32:05.

Ysmaw holds a PB of 1:10:45 over the distance, set in February in Barcelona. She is also the fastest woman of the field over 10km, courtesy of a best of 31:23 set in Valencia back to January.

Kenya’s Deborah Samum and Ethiopia’s Mehdin Beyene share the same career best of 1:12:10 and should be in contention for the podium. The former, who finished ninth at this year’s World Cross Country Championships, ran that time in Nairobi while Beyene recorded her PB in Rabat.

The women’s course of 1:08:29 is held by Rahma Rusa.

Quentin Guillon for World Athletics

Course records under threat in Kobe

Organisers of the Kobe Marathon are hopeful that at least one of the course records will be broken at the World Athletics Bronze Label road race on Sunday (17).

Susan Jerotich, who won last year in a PB and course record of 2:31:38, returns to the Japanese city to defend her title, but four other women on the start line have faster PBs than the US-based 32-year-old Kenyan.

Compatriots Mirriam Wangari and Betty Jepleting are among the top contenders. Wangari, whose 2:27:53 PB makes her the fastest in the field, hasn’t raced for more than a year, but the 40-year-old’s last run was a solid 2:31:36 clocking in Hengshui last September. Jepleting, meanwhile, set a PB of 2:28:43 just five weeks ago when winning in Eindhoven, so – provided she has sufficiently recovered from that effort – she will arrive in Kobe in top form.

Japanese duo Yurie Doi and Kaori Yoshida, both sub-2:30 performers at their best, have realistic chances of taking the top spot, while Ethiopia’s Tesfanesh Merga and Sisay Meseret Gola should also feature among the lead pack.

Five men in this year’s field have PBs faster than the course record of 2:12:42, set in 2017 by Morocco’s Khalil Lemciyeh.

Norway’s Weldu Negash has bettered that mark on seven occasions, topped by his PB of 2:09:14, which makes him the fastest on Sunday’s start list. He recently finished 24th in the marathon at the World Championships in Doha with 2;16:35, but his season’s best of 2:11:48 is more representative of his current form.

Uganda’s Geoffrey Kusuro is one of the most accomplished runners in this year’s Kobe Marathon. The two-time Olympian competed at nine consecutive editions of the World Cross Country Championships between 2005 and 2015 and in recent years has focused on the roads.

Kusuro has a half marathon best of 59:43 and came close to that two months ago with 59:54. He has contested just two marathons to date, but his PB of 2:10:53 looks ready for a revision.

Ukraine’s Igor Olefirenko, another Olympian, set a PB of 2:11:55 in London earlier this year and recently won the national half marathon title.

Eliud Barngetuny, who set his PB of 2:10:15 when winning in Madrid last year, will be keen to improve on his season’s best of 2:15:46.

Chiharu Takada is the fastest Japanese entrant, but his PB of 2:10:03 was set five years ago. His best time in the past two years is 2:15:47.