Sharon Cherop, Philadelphia Half Marathon winner (© Victah Sailer)
Sharon Cherop’s PB of 2:22:28 makes her the fastest woman heading into the Singapore Marathon on Sunday (1). But despite that mark being almost 10 minutes quicker than the course record of the IAAF Gold Label Road Race, the Kenyan is still unsure whether she will be able to break 2:30 there, given the stifling conditions that are expected.
The Singapore Marathon, which began in 1982, has an impressive list of past winners that includes several global champions and big city Marathon winners. But the course records stand at 2:11:25 for men and 2:31:55 for women, which speaks volumes about how tough the race is.
This Sunday’s race will be no different as temperatures are expected to be about 25°C by the time the elite athletes cross the finish line.
Nevertheless, the in-form Cherop will be looking to end her season on a high with a victory after finishing third in Boston and second in Berlin.
“I heard a lot about how Singapore is such a beautiful city, and that the race route takes you through iconic landmarks of the country which I have been looking forward to see,” Cherop told the local press earlier this week.
“I also know that the race is a very competitive one featuring many good international runners,” added the 2011 World bronze medallist and 2012 Boston Marathon winner. “I have been clocking just over 2:22 a lot. My target now is definitely to go under it, but I am not sure if I can adapt to the weather here. There will be a big difference because of the conditions.”
For the first time in four years there will be a new women’s champion, as Irene Jerotich – who won in Singapore three times between 2010 and 2012 – will not defend her title.
Aside from the weather, one of Cherop’s biggest threats will be Belarusian record-holder Aliaksandra Duliba. The 25-year-old has been a revelation this year, winning in Los Angeles on her debut over the distance with 2:26:08, then smashing that mark to finish fourth in Chicago in 2:23:44.
As recently as last weekend, Duliba raced at the Warandeloop cross-country meeting in Tilburg and finished eighth, which means she may not be as fresh coming into this race.
Behind Cherop and Duliba, there is a quintet of runners with sub-2:30 bests who could be set to capitalise if the two big favourites falter in the heat.
Olena Burkovska, who represented Ukraine at the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics, won in Hannover this year with a PB and course record of 2:27:07.
Ethiopian duo Derbe Godana and Eshetu Biruktayit are just marginally slower with respective PBs of 2:27:32 and 2:27:34. But Godana – who competed at the 2012 World Half Marathon Championships and 2006 World Cross – has not raced this year, while Biruktayit ran the Ljubljana Marathon less than five weeks ago, so both are unknown quantities.
Cherop’s Kenyan compatriots Beatrice Toroitich and Elizabeth Chemweno are also contenders for a podium finish. Toroitich is the faster of the pair with a 2:27:41 PB, but Chemweno is familiar with the course, having finished fourth in Singapore last year.
But perhaps the dark horse of the race is Russia’s Alina Prokopeva. Her 2:38:34 PB makes her one of the slowest elite women in the field, but that performance came in Singapore last year when she finished third. It’s also her only marathon to date, but if this year’s performances are anything to go by – following silver medals in the 10,000m and half marathon at the World University Games – then the 28-year-old could be one to watch.
Haja looks to break Kenyan dominance in Singapore
The men’s race at the Singapore Marathon has been won by Kenyan athletes for the past 11 years. But Ethiopia’s Haile Haja could be the man to put an end to that streak.
The 25-year-old set a PB of 2:08:35 earlier this year in Rome, making him the fastest man in the field based on season’s bests. He also has a good record in Asia, having won in Taiyuan in 2010 and Macau in 2012.
But he will not have it easy on Sunday. Looking to maintain the Kenyan supremacy in Singapore will be 2:05:39 man Eliud Kiptanui, 2007 World champion and two-time Singapore winner Luke Kibet, and 2011 Cologne Marathon champion Samson Barmao.
Kiptanui’s PB makes him the fastest in the field, but the 24-year-old – who finished sixth at the 2011 World Championships – only has one race to his name this year; a modest 2:15:10 run in Seoul where he finished 17th. To date, the 2010 Prague Marathon – where he set his 2:05:39 PB – remains his only victory.
Kibet, now 30, in 2007 became the first Kenyan man to win the Marathon at the World Championships. The fact he has only broken 2:10 once in his career made his feat all the more surprising.
But he has a good record in Asia, having won in Singapore in 2008 and 2009, as well as finishing second last year. His season’s best may be just 2:15:16, but Kibet is known for pulling off surprise performances.
Barmao has an identical PB to Kibet, but has broken 2:10 on six occasions, including earlier this year when finishing sixth in Rome in 2:09:47.
Another threat could be Bahrain’s Aadam Ismaeel Khamis, who holds his country’s national record with 2:07:59, set when winning in Valencia two years ago. He failed to finish at the World Championships this year and will hope to improve on his season’s best of 2:15:37 set in Chongqing.
Other sub-2:10 men in the field include Kenyans Mike Mutai and Julius Korir and Ethiopian pair Gezahegn Alemayehu and Afewerk Mesfin.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
Elite field (with PBs)
Eliud Kiptanui (KEN) 2:05:39
Aadam Ismaeel Khamis (BRN) 2:07:59
Haile Haja (ETH) 2:08:35
Luke Kibet (KEN) 2:08:52
Samson Barmao (KEN) 2:08:52
Julius Kiplagat Korir (KEN) 2:09:13
Mike Kiprotich Mutai (KEN) 2:09:18
Gezahegn Alemayehu (ETH) 2:09:42
Afewerk Mesfin (ETH) 2:09:49
Niguse Chala (ETH) 2:13:17
Collins Kibet (KEN) 2:13:34
Sharon Cherop (KEN) 2:22:28
Aliaksandra Duliba (BLR) 2:23:44
Olena Burkovska (UKR) 2:27:07
Derbe Godana (ETH) 2:27:32
Eshetu Biruktayit (ETH) 2:27:34
Beatrice Toroitich (KEN) 2:27:41
Elizabeth Chemweno (KEN) 2:28:55
Letay Negash (ETH) 2:31:13
Tiruwork Mekonnen (ETH) 2:31:17
Alina Prokopeva (RUS) 2:38:34
Diribe Hunde (ETH) 2:39:08