Kenya's Dennis Kimetto wins the 2013 Tokyo Marathon (© AFP / Getty Images)
Organisers of the Shanghai International Marathon have assembled a star-studded field, spearheaded by former world record-holder Dennis Kimetto, in the hopes of improving the course records of both races at the IAAF Gold Label event on Sunday (18).
Although Kimetto has not finished a marathon since April 2016, the second fastest runner of all time, whose lifetime best of 2:02:57 was beaten by Eliud Kipchoge just two months ago, is still seen as the biggest hope to break the 2:07:14 course record set in 2015. He even stands a chance of rewriting the Chinese all-comers’ record of 2:06:19 set by compatriot Moses Mosop in Xiamen, but his primary goal will simply be making it to the finish line.
Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Mekonnen, the second fastest entrant in the field, will also want to prove his competitiveness in Shanghai. The 23-year-old set his personal best of 2:04:32 when winning the 2014 Dubai Marathon, the fastest time in history by an U20 athlete. He came close to that mark two year later with his third-place finish in Dubai in 2:04:46 and last year he took a 2:07:26 win in Hamburg. But his only outing in 2018 has been a 20th-place finish at the Tokyo Marathon in 2:10:26.
Mekonnen’s compatriot Seyefu Tura, on the contrary, has enjoyed a successful year so far. The 21-year-old clocked 2:04:44 to finish seventh at the Dubai Marathon in January, improving his PB by more than four minutes, and went on to grab his first marathon title in Milan in April in 2:09:04.
The field includes several other sub-2:10 runners such as Ethiopia’s Yitayal Atnafu, runner-up at the 2018 Houston Marathon with a PB of 2:07:00, and Kenya’s Asbel Kipsang, a 2:07:30 performer who will be competing in Shanghai for the third consecutive year after finishing second and third in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Sub-2:20 runners Yebrgual Melese and Sarah Chepchirchir will face one another in the women’s race.
Ethiopia’s Melese trimmed more than three minutes off her PB to finish third in Dubai in 2:19:36. She also clocked 2:27:47 to finish second at the Yellow River Estuary International Marathon in Dongying, China. Sunday’s race will be her third marathon of the year.
The 34-year-old Chepchirchir of Kenya is the second-fastest woman in the field. Following a solid season in 2017 when she registered her big PB of 2:19:47 from her victory at the Tokyo Marathon and successfully defended her title in Lisbon, Chepchirchir will be keen to continue her winning streak in her first race in 2018.
Kenya’s Flomena Cheyech, 36, is the other title contender whose PB is faster than the 2:21:52 course record in Shanghai set by Tigist Tufa of Ethiopia three years ago. Cheyech clocked a PB of 2:21:22 to finish third in Paris last April and finished fourth over the classic distance at the IAAF World Championships in London. Her most recent performance was a 2:33:01 clocking at the Nagoya Women's Marathon in March.
Helen Tola Bekele, who will celebrate her 24th birthday next week, is another woman to watch. The rising Ethiopian has improved her PB each season since making her marathon debut in 2015, recently reducing it to 2:22:48 in Berlin.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF
Kipruto to make half marathon debut in Boulogne-Billancourt
Kenya’s 2008 Olympic steeplechase champion Brimin Kipruto will embark on the road-running chapter of his career when he lines up for the Boulogne-Billancourt Christian Grangier Half-Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race, on Sunday (18).
The 33-year-old, who also won the 2007 world steeplechase title, was eliminated from his heat at the IAAF World Championships London 2017, which was his last competition to date.
Having now shifted his focus to the roads, he will have much to do in Boulogne-Billancourt with the likes of Josphat Tanui and Olika Adugna also in the race.
Tanui has a personal best of 59:22 set last year in Usti, suggesting that Franklin Chepkwony’s course record of 1:00:11 from 2013 could be in jeopardy. His season’s best, however, is 1:01:14 from the Prague Half Marathon in April, while his most recent performance at the distance was a 1:02:42 clocking in Usti Nad Labem in September.
Ethiopia’s Adugna illustrated his current form by winning the challenging Marseille-Cassis 20km race three weeks ago. The 19-year-old finished fifth in the 10,000m at the IAAF World U20 Championships Tampere 2018.
Ishmael Kalale has set two half marathon PBs this year. The 23-year-old was runner-up in Verona in February in 1:01:03 before lowering his best to 1:00:47 in Lisbon one month ago.
The field also includes Precious Mashele of South Africa, who set a PB of 1:01:48 last year in Boulogne-Billancourt, Yismaw Ayeno of Ethiopia, who was fifth in Marseille-Cassis, and Taye Girma, whose 10km PB of 28:06 indicates he could play a leading role in what will be his half marathon debut.
In the women’s race, Kenya’s Parendis Lakapana will attempt to move up from her second-place showing last year. She set a PB of 1:09:13 on that occasion to finish 44 seconds adrift of Rahma Tusa, who broke the course record with 1:08:29.
Two months ago Lakapana won in Krems in a time of 1:09:23, only 10 seconds outside her PB.
Her main opponent should be compatriot Susan Jeptoo, who clocked a best of 1:09:02 in Lille last year. This year she has set PBs of 31:59 for 10km and 2:30:50 for the marathon, while she also prevailed in Porto in a season’s best of 1:11:06.
Irvette Van Zyl of South Africa, Karine Pasquier of France and Hanane El Bajaoui of Morocco should also be in contention for a podium finish.
Quentin Guillon for the IAAF
Lemciyeh faces tough challenge in defence of Kobe Marathon title
Morocco’s Khalil Lemciyeh will defend his title at the Kobe Marathon on Sunday (18) but faces a strong field at the IAAF Bronze Label road race.
The 31-year-old won by almost two minutes last year, clocking a course record of 2:12:49. His season’s best in the marathon so far this year is 2:15:48, but he set a half marathon PB of 1:00:59 in Valencia just three weeks ago, suggesting he is coming into form at the right time and could even challenge his PB of 2:11:58.
Norway’s Weldu Negash is the fastest man in the field, based on PBs and season’s bests. He finished seventh in Daegu earlier this year in 2:10:39, just one minute and 25 seconds shy of the PB he set in Rotterdam in 2014. He will be looking to rebound after failing to finish the marathon at the European Championships in Berlin.
After finishing second in Kobe last year, Cosmas Kyeva will be hoping to go one better on Sunday, but the Kenyan will be contesting his second marathon within five weeks, having won in Poznan in October with 2:11:45.
Tanzani’s Saidi Makula, fourth in Kobe last year, hasn’t raced since the Commonwealth Games in April. A 2:12:01 performer at his best, he was one of several athletes in Gold Coast who didn’t finish the marathon, which was held in stifling heat.
Australia’s Liam Adams, who finished fifth at the Commonwealth Games, and marathon debutant Hamza Sahli of Morocco will also be in Kobe.
Munkhzaya Bayartsogt, who last year set a Mongolian record of 2:30:54, is the fastest woman in the field for Sunday’s race. This will be her fifth marathon of the year, though, and after clocking 2:31:12 back in March, her next three marathons were progressively slower.
Eritrea’s Kokob Tesfagaber has had a less hectic racing schedule in 2018. After setting a PB of 1:12:15 at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships Valencia 2018, she recorded a lifetime best of 2:31:45 at the Wuhan Marathon.
If either woman arrives in Kobe close to their absolute best, they could challenge the course record of 2:33:14 set last year by USA’s Maegan Krifchin.
Morocco’s Sana Achahbar finished second last year and will want to make it on to the podium again.
Nina Savina of Belarus set a PB of 2:33:50 at the European Championships and will be keen to improve on that in what will be just her third race at the distance.
Kenya’s Susan Jerotich and Australia’s Melanie Panayiotou are also in the field, while Kanae Shimoyama, who clocked 2:38:50 in Osaka earlier this year, is the leading Japanese contender.