Joshua Cheptegei wins the Zevenheuvelenloop in a world best for 15km (Organisers) © Copyright
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Weekend road preview: marathon course records under threat in Valencia while Cheptegei targets world 10km record


Both event records will be under threat at the Maratón Valencia Trinidad Alfonso EDP, a World Athletics Gold Label road race in the eastern Spanish city on Sunday (1).

The current standards, which also double as the Spanish all-comers' records, stand at 2:04:30 and 2:21:14, set last year by Ethiopia’s Leul Gebrselassie and Ashete Dido. Boosted by the success of last year’s edition, the organisers have brought together the best ever line-up in the hunt for improving those marks on Sunday.

Ten men in the field have run quicker than 2:06:00 on at least one occasion, headed by Ethiopia’s Herpasa Negasa. The 26-year-old holds a lifetime best of 2:03:40 set earlier this year when finishing second in Dubai. On Sunday he will be making only his third appearance of the year at any distance. His only other outing was a 1:00:41 half marathon effort in March.

He will be joined by defending champion Gebrselassie, whose only performance of 2019 is a 2:07:15 clocking in London. His career best dates back from his debut in Dubai last year when he was timed at 2:04:02.

Leul Gebresilase wins the men's race at the Ottawa 10K (Bruce Wodder (Photorun) / organisers)Leul Gebresilase wins the men's race at the Ottawa 10K (Bruce Wodder (Photorun) / organisers) © Copyright

 

The Ethiopian contingent also includes 29-year-old Guye Adola, a 2:03:46 performer in Berlin in 2017. Although he has not tackled the event this year, he has shown solid form by winning the Rome Half Marathon in 1:00:17.

Ethiopia’s 2008 Olympic and 2009 world bronze medallist Tsegaye Kebede, who last raced exactly one year ago in Valencia when he finished fourth in 2:05:21, will also be in action.

Meanwhile, the powerful Kenyan contingent will be led by Emmanuel Saina. Impressively, the 27-year-old has raced three times over the distance with as many 2:05 clockings, topped by his 2:05:02 in Dubai last January. Saina will be joined by Norbert Kigen, a creditable fifth last year here in 2:05:22, Felix Kiprotich (2:05:33) and Gideon Kipketer (2:05:51). Watch out too for Philemon Kacheran, a 2:07:12 performer who is reportedly in great form.

The quickest Europeans on show will be Turkey’s Kaan Kigen Ozbilen and Norway’s Sondre Moen. Ozbilen broke his own national record last April in Rotterdam with 2:05:27 while former European record-holder Moen (2:05:48) is having a fine year with a national 10,000m record of 27:24:78 and a 12th-place finish in the marathon at the World Championships in Doha. His last appearance came in the Valencia Half Marathon five weeks ago when he timed at 1:00:14.

The halfway point in Valencia is scheduled to be reached in 1:02:00.

The women’s contest features the best line-up ever assembled in Spain, including three women with sub-2:20 PBs. Kenya’s Olympic 5000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot heads the cast. After a successful career on the track and cross country, the 36-year-old took up the road events and ran a lifetime best of 2:18:31 last year in London in her third try at the event. Cheruiyot clocked 2:20:14 in her last competition, also in the British capital, in April. She will be paced by Britain’s Scott Overall and is scheduled to reach half way in 1:09:00.

Ethiopia’s Roza Dereje and Birhane Dibaba should be the Kenyan’s stiffest opponents. The former is still 22 years of age but has already shown her ability over long distances as she managed a 2:19:17 clocking in Dubai last year. This year she finished third in London in 2:20:51 but failed to finish the marathon at the World Championships in Doha last month so Valencia is the perfect occasion to bounce back.

Dibaba, 26, boasts a 2:19:51 PB from Tokyo last year and proved to be in good shape recently by setting a half marathon PB of 1:05:57 to win in Copenhagen in September.

Other Ethiopians in the field include Workenesh Edesa, holder of a 2:21:05 PB set in Dubai last January, Tadelech Bekele, who boasts a lifetime best of 2:21:40 set in London last year, and Azmera Abreha, a 2:21:51 specialist whose last event was a 1:08:20 half marathon in Cardiff for a PB. Zeineba Yimer, a 1:05:46 half marathon performer, is making her debut over the classic distance and cannot be discounted.

The Kenyan challenge will be led by Purity Rionoripo, a 2:20:55 specialist who will be making her first 42.2km effort in more than two years. Her only outing in 2019 came last month when she won the Trento Half Marathon in 1:08:34.

About 25,000 athletes – combining the marathon and 10km events – will compete on Sunday coming from a record 101 countries. In the longer event 39% of the athletes come from abroad with Italy (2332), Italy (2181) and Great Britain (1196) as the main countries.

Weather forecasters predict a sunny but windy day and temperatures ranging between 14-16C by the time of the event.

Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics


Cheptegei to attack world 10km record

A Silver Label 10km race, the 10K Valencia Trinidad Alfonso, will take place in Valencia at the same time as the marathon. It will be the last edition as organisers have decided to focus solely on the marathon event from next year, but all involved are keen to go out on a high.

In a bid to make history, organisers are hopeful that Joshua Cheptegei can challenge the world record for the distance, which currently belongs to Kenya’s Patrick Komon with his 26:44 clocking from Utrecht back in 2010.

The Ugandan star has enjoyed his best ever season in 2019 as he captured the world cross-country title in Aarhus, landed gold at the World Championships in Doha over 10,000m, and boasts the world-leading performance on the track with a 26:48:36 effort. According to the weather forecast the wind might be Cheptegei’s toughest opponent as gusts of 30km/h are expected on Sunday.

Joshua Cheptegei takes the Dam tot Damloop (Vincent van den Boogaard/organisers)Joshua Cheptegei takes the Dam tot Damloop (Vincent van den Boogaard/organisers) © Copyright

 

After being one of the five finalists for the Male Athlete of the Year honour at the recent World Athletics awards, a world record over 10km would bring the 23-year-old’s 2019 campaign to a marvellous conclusion.

Cheptegei will have a pacemakers of the highest calibre in the guise of fellow Ugandans Abdallah Mande and Stephen Kissa. The former clocked 27:22:89 in Hengelo earlier this year and finished 17th in Doha over the distance while Kissa, who will turn 24 years of age on race day, is an accomplished road runner having won two 10km events this year in Spain with respective times of 27:24 and 27:13. He also won at the recent Nijmegen 15km where he set a lifetime best of 41:49. Roy Hoornweg of the Netherlands will be the pacemaker for the opening 2.5km.

En route to the 10km mark, Cheptegei could also threaten the world 5km road record of 13:22 set by Kenya’s Robert Keter in Lille two weeks ago.

Sweden’s 2014 European 5000m champion Meraf Bahta is the leading contender in the women’s race. She managed a career best of 31:09 for the distance in Schoorl in February.

Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics


Dazza, Naert and Ayana set to clash in Fukuoka

When the Fukuoka International Marathon became a non-domestic race in 1966, the intent of the organiser was to invite the winners from all the international championship marathons which took place over the previous 12 months. In keeping with the spirit of the event, this year’s edition of the World Athletics Gold Label road race, set to take place on Sunday (1), features European champion Koen Naert and Pan American Games gold medallist Christian Pachoco.

Naert recorded his marathon personal best, 2:07:39, at this year’s Rotterdam Marathon. But Morocco’s El Mahjoub Dazza is the fastest in the field as he recorded 2:05:26 at the 2018 Valencia Marathon and 2:05:58 in Prague earlier this year. Those two performances are faster than the PBs of all the other runners in the field.

“I am ready,” he said. “If the weather is good, I can run fast.”

Other invited runners include Tsedat Abeje Ayana, who set a PB of 2:06:36 in Seville earlier this year, as well as sub-2:09 performers Raymond Choge, Amanuel Mesel, Abdi Ibrahim Abdo, and Shadrack Kiplagat. Mesel has competed in the past four editions of Fukuoka Marathon and has broken 2:10 in 2017 and 2018.

A convincing victory for Ayana Tsedat at the Seville Marathon (Organisers)A convincing victory for Ayana Tsedat at the Seville Marathon (Organisers) © Copyright

 

Kenyans running for a corporate sponsored team won the race on three occasions between 2011 and 2013. This year Michael Githae, who runs for Suzuki Hamamatsu Athletics Club, will try to become fourth Kenyan with a Japanese connection to win the Fukuoka Marathon. He was eighth at the 2017 Fukuoka Marathon and recorded a personal best of 2:09:21 at the 2018 Lake Biwa Marathon.

For Japanese runners, the significance of the race is that anybody who improves the national marathon record, 2:05:50, will clinch the third spot on the Japanese Olympic Marathon team – unless someone else improves the record further at the 2020 Tokyo or the Lake Biwa Marathon. Given the Japanese entrants for Sunday’s race, however, a national record appears unlikely in Fukuoka.

Taku Fujimoto, who ran 2:07:57 at the 2018 Chicago Marathon, is the fastest Japanese runner in the field, while Yuki Sato, who has a 10,000m best of 27:38.25, may have the best marathon potential.

Yuki Kawauchi will run the Fukuoka Marathon for the fifth straight year. His personal best is 2:08:14, while his best time in Fukuoka is 2:09:05 from 2013. Now that Kawauchi no longer works for Saitama prefectural government, he may be ready for a quicker time.

Ken Nakamura for World Athletics


Cherono and Kipkorir set to defend Singapore Marathon titles

Priscah Cherono and Joshua Kipkorir will try to defend their Singapore Marathon titles on Saturday (30) but a strong line-up has been assembled for the World Athletics Gold Label road race.

Cherono, the 2006 world cross-country silver medallist, has contested just one marathon this year, clocking 2:34:27 in Rabat, a few minutes slower than her winning time in Singapore last year. The 39-year-old Kenyan is a 2:27:41 performer at her best, but there are several women in the field with faster PBs.

Mamitu Daska is one of those. The Ethiopian recorded her best of 2:21:59 in Frankfurt back in 2011 and earlier this month she won at altitude in Guadalajara in 2:33:10. That experience of running in tough conditions may come in handy on Saturday as temperatures are expected to be about 30C when the race starts at 6pm.

Stella Barsosio, who finished second to Cherono last year, returns to Singapore in the hope of going one better. The 26-year-old won 10 marathons between 2015 and 2017 and this year improved her PB to 2:23:36 when finishing second in Rotterdam.

Stellah Barsosio wins the Sydney Marathon (Organisers)Stellah Barsosio wins the Sydney Marathon (Organisers) © Copyright

 

Sharon Cherop, the 2011 world bronze medallist, also heads to Singapore in good form. The 35-year-old Kenyan won in Singapore in 2013, one year after winning the Boston Marathon. More recently, she ran 2:25:11 in Ljubljana at the end of October.

Other sub-2:28 performers in the field include Kenyan trio Valentine Kipketer, Jane Jelegat and Alice Cherono, Bahrain’s Merima Mohammed and Ethiopia’s Aberash Fayesa.

Japan’s Haruka Yamaguchi is also set to compete, just two weeks after winning the Kobe Marathon in 2:27:39 – her third PB from her four most recent marathons. Saturday’s race will be her seventh marathon of 2019.

Like Cherono, Kipkorir might not have the fastest PB of the field, but his experience of the course and his 2018 victory will give him a boost of confidence going into Saturday’s race.

The Kenyan, who won in Singapore last year in 2:12:20, recently equalled his PB of 2:09:50 to finish third in Gyeongju.

Two-time world champion Abel Kirui will start as one of the favourites. The 37-year-old Kenyan, who finished third in Singapore back in 2006, didn’t finish the Hamburg Marathon earlier this year, but recorded two sub-2:08 performances in 2018.

Ethiopia’s 2015 world silver medallist Yemane Tsegay has the fastest PB of the field with his 2:04:48 clocking from Rotterdam seven years ago. The 34-year-old hasn’t contested a marathon this year; his only performance in 2019 is a 1:05:55 half marathon clocking in September.

There are several other sub-2:08 performers in the field, including Kenya’s Eliud Kiptanui, 2012 Boston Marathon champion Wesley Korir, Elijah Kemboi, Bahrain’s Benson Seurei, Morocco’s Lake Biwa Marathon champion Salah Eddine Bounasser, and Barselius Kipyego.


Jene faces tough title defence in Kunming

Defending champion and course record-holder Olkeba Jene of Ethiopia will face stiff opposition when he defends his title at the SCO Kunming International Marathon, as the organisers have assembled the deepest field ever witnessed in the four-year history of the World Athletics Bronze Label road race on Sunday (1).

The 22-year-old scored a 2:20:49 victory last year, winning by seven seconds while setting the course record in the southwestern city of China. He improved his personal best to 2:14:18 this season from a ninth-place finish in Chongqing in March, but this weekend he faces a field that includes nine sub-2:10 runners.

Jene’s compatriot Bazu Worku is the fastest entrant in the field thanks to his 2:05:25 career best set nine years ago in Berlin. The 29-year-old has been struggling to find his best form so far this year as he failed to break 2:10 in all the three races he enrolled in and most recently achieved a season’s best of 2:10:56 to finish fourth in Beijing last month.

Marius Kimutai winning the Rotterdam Marathon (AFP)Marius Kimutai winning the Rotterdam Marathon (AFP) © Copyright

 

Bahrain’s Marius Kimutai, a 2:05:47 performer, has been enjoying better form in 2019. It will also be his fourth race of the year and the 26-year-old has already collected two victories in Taiyuan and Hangzhou plus a fourth-place finish in Chongqing.

Other sub-2:10 runners toeing the line include Ethiopia’s Dereje Debele, whose PB of 2:07:48 was recorded six years ago in Dusseldorf, Mathew Kipsaat of Kenya, winner of this years’ New Taipei City Marathon with a PB of 2:09:19, and fellow Kenyan Evans Sambu, who achieved a PB of 2:09:05 in Gongju in 2017.

The women’s course record of 2:33:53 set by Kenya’s 2016 winner Rodah Chepkorir also looks vulnerable since 10 runners in the field have run faster than 2:30 and half of them have broken 2:33 this year.

Ethiopia’s Mulu Seboka, who boasts a PB of 2:21:56, has vast experience of racing in China, having earned titles in Dalian and Shenzhen. As the fastest woman on paper, the 35-year-old registered two sub-2:30 results this season, retaining her Dalian title in 2:27:19 and clocking 2:29:09 to finish third in Beijing last month.

Fellow Ethiopian Letebrhan Haylay is another woman to watch in Kunming. Since her marathon debut in 2015, Haylay has produced six sub-2:30 marks from her 10 outings. The 29-year-old hasn’t competed in any races since setting a PB of 2:24:47 in Dongying last May, so her competitiveness is unknown.

Other title contenders include Ethiopia’s Nurit Shimels, who trimmed more than a minute off her PB with 2:27:40 two months ago in Cape Town, and Kenya’s Rael Kiyara, a past winner of the Chongqing, Lanzhou and Shanghai marathons with a lifetime best of 2:25:23.

Vincent Wu for World Athletics