Lonah Chemtai Salpeter at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview

Weekend road preview: Salpeter and Mekonnen headline in Frankfurt, Hassan targeting half marathon WR in Valencia

Another busy weekend on the IAAF Label race circuit is coming up, with marathons in Frankfurt, Ljubljana, Venice and Changsha, China along with the Valencia Half Marathon, which once again promises to be fast. We preview them all below.

Salpeter and Mekonnen head impressive Frankfurt marathon fields

Israel's Lonah Salpeter and Tsegaye Mekonnen of Ethiopia head the fields for the Mainova Frankfurt Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race, on Sunday (27).

Salpeter has a personal best of 2:19:46 which makes her the fastest woman ever to step foot on the Frankfurt start line. The 30-year-old joined the sub-2:20 club with her victory in Prague last May, just one part of her sensational 2019 season with includes a 1:06:09 national record in the half marathon in April, also in Prague.

Among her rivals will be the course record holder and defending champion Meskerem Assefa from Ethiopia, who ran 2:20:36 here 12 months ago. Since then, Assefa finished a respectable fourth at the Boston Marathon in April.

 

Meskerem Assefa and Lonah Salpeter in Frankfurt (Organisers)Meskerem Assefa and Lonah Salpeter in Frankfurt (Organisers) © Copyright

 

Two others have dipped under 2:22: Kenyan Valary Aiyabei with a best of 2:20:53 and Ethiopian Bedatu Hirpa who has clocked 2:21:32. The latter finished third in Frankfurt last year. Another runner expected to produce a strong performance is Ethiopia's Megertu Kebede whose best is 2:22:52.

The men’s race features a rare contest over the marathon distance, pitting Mekkonen, who holds the world U20 best against Mark Kiptoo, holder of the veterans, or masters world best. Mekonnen clocked 2:04:32 to win in Dubai in 2014 as a 19-year-old, while Kiptoo ran 2:07:50 in Frankfurt 12 months ago to finish sixth while becoming the first 40+ runner to break the 2:08 barrier.

Kiptoo made his marathon debut at 37 in Frankfurt and finished second in 2:06:15, just one second behind the winner. In 2014 he returned to win in 2:06:49. Three of his five best marathon times have been run in the city. His lifetime best is 2:06:00, achieved in the Dutch city of Eindhoven in 2015.

Organisers have attracted four other men with sub-2:07 credentials to the start line. Martin Kosgey clocked 2:06:41 here last year to finish second, so he clearly knows the course and will be a solid podium threat. Dawit Wolde of Ethiopia clocked 2:06:18 to finish second in Prague this year, less than three months after a second place showing at the Hong Kong Marathon. Another is Fikre Tefera Bekele, who has a 2:06:27 best from his fourth place finish in Seoul in March. The fourth is Kenyan Benard Kipyego, who has a 2:06:19 best to his credit from Amsterdam in 2015.

Many athletes competing in Frankfurt will have their eyes on the qualifying times for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year. The target for the men is 2:11:30 and 2:29:30 for the women.

Leading runners and their personal bests:
Men:
Tsegaye Mekonnen ETH 2:04:32
Mark Kiptoo KEN 2:06:00
Dawit Wolde ETH 2:06:18
Benard Kipyego KEN 2:06:19
Fikre Tefera ETH 2:06:27
Martin Kosgey KEN 2:06:41
Tebalu Heyi ETH 2:07:10
Kenneth Keter KEN 2:07:34
Nicodemus Kimutai KEN 2:10:00
Daniele Meucci ITA 2:10:45
Blazej Brzezinski POL 2:11:27
Fernando Cabada USA 2:11:36
Bethwel Rutto KEN 2:11:59
Mogos Solomon ERI 2:12:23
Derek Hawkins GBR 2:12:57
Adam Nowicki POL 2:13:28
Homiyu Tesfaye GER Debut
 
Women:
Lonah Salpeter ISR 2:19:46
Meskerem Assefa ETH 2:20:36
Valary Aiyabei KEN 2:20:53
Bedatu Hirpa ETH 2:21:32
Megertu Kebede ETH 2:22:52
Caroline Rotich KEN 2:23:22
Askale Wegi ETH 2:24:13
Sylvia Kibet KEN 2:25:52
Antonia Kwambai KEN 2:27:43
Katharina Steinruck GER 2:28:34
Nataliya Lehonkova UKR 2:28:58
Sylvia Medugu KEN 2:29:09
Hanna Lindholm SWE 2:29:34
Stephanie Twell GBR 2:30:14
Samantha Bluske USA 2:31:56
Hayley Carruthers GBR 2:33:59
Aleksandra Brzezinska POL 2:34:51
 

Organisers for the IAAF

 

Gezahegn and Godfay the headliners in Ljubljana

Ethiopians Kelkile Gezahegn and Afera Godfay will start as favourites at the 24th Volkswagen Ljubljana Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race, on Sunday (27).

Both race records in the Slovenian capital were smashed last year, Sisay Lemma shattering the men's with a 2:04:58 run and Visiline Jepkesho the women's in 2:22:58. Hit with late hour cancellations this year and temperatures expected to be near 20 C during the race, organisers aren't envisioning a rerun of the 2018 edition, but do expect another competitive pair of contests.

 

Kelkile Gezahegn wins the Frankfurt Marathon (Victah Sailer / organisers)Kelkile Gezahegn wins the Frankfurt Marathon (Victah Sailer / organisers) © Copyright

 

Gezahegn, the Frankfurt Marathon winner last year, clocked his 2:05:56 career best in Rotterdam in 2018, where he finished third. The 23-year-old was nearly as fast in Dubai last January, clocking 2:06:09 to finish sixth.

He'll take on veteran Mark Korir of Kenya, the 2015 Paris Marathon winner in 2:05:49. He hasn't approached that form since but clocked 2:07:03 to finish second in Seoul in March 2018. He has yet to race in 2019.

Anthony Kiplangat Maritim is also expected to be a factor. The 33-year-old produced his 2:06:54 personal best in Barcelona in March, finishing third. Another Kenyan, 28-year-old Vincent Rono, should also be in the hunt. He improved to 2:07:10 at the Rotterdam Marathon in April, finishing fifth.

Godfay, 28, is the class of the women's field. The 28-year-old improved her lifetime best to 2:22:41 to win the Dongying Marathon in April.

Shitaye Eshete of Bahrain also arrives with solid credentials, which include a runner-up finish in Prague earlier this year in 2:22:39, the fastest among the entrants. Eshete prefaced that race with victory over 10,000m at the Asian championships in Doha in April, but in her latest appearance in the Qatari capital, the 29-year-old didn't finish the marathon at the World Championships last month.

Sentayehu Lewetegn is another sub-2:23 runner in the field, courtesy of a 2:22:45 run in Frankfurt last year where she finished sixth. The 23-year-old’s best performance this year is a fifth place finish in January's Dubai Marathon where she clocked 2:35:59.

Sharon Jemutai Cherop, a past winner in Boston and Toronto, is the biggest name on the start list, but she'll be looking to regain some of the form that propelled her to those victories in an earlier stage of her career. Her 2:22:28 career best dates back to Berlin 2013, but she was fifth in Ljubljana last year in 2:25:02.

Others to watch include Bornes Chepkirui, last year's Prague winner in 2:24:19 and Kuftu Tahir Dadiso of Ethiopia, who won in Barcelona in March in 2:24:44, a lifetime best.

Diana Chemtai, a 1:07:07 half marathoner with three international victories over the 21.1km distance to her name, will be making her marathon debut.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF

 

Hassan targeting half marathon world record in Valencia

Dutch star Sifan Hassan leads an impressive women’s field at the Media Maratón de Valencia Trinidad Alfonso, an IAAF Gold Label road race, on Sunday (27).

Hassan, who managed an unprecedented 1500 and 10,000m double at the recent World Championships, is mounting an assault on the world record of 1:04:51 set by Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei in Valencia two years ago. Hassan broke the world record in the mile in Monaco on 12 July clocking 4:12:33 as well as the road 5km record in February, illustrating her incredible versatility. She broke the European record in the half marathon in Copenhagen last year clocking 1:05:15.

 

Sifan Hassan wins the Copenhagen Half Marathon (Organisers)Sifan Hassan wins the Copenhagen Half Marathon (Organisers) © Copyright

 

Hassan will be paced by Morocco’s Yakoub Labquira and Dutchman Roy Hoornweg who have been tasked with a 3:04-kilometre tempo, on schedule for a 30:40 opening 10km. That would put her well inside world record pace.

The 26-year-old, now training under the guidance of Charles Van Commenee, faces a field that includes ten runners who have dipped under the 1:08 barrier.

Those include the Ethiopian tandem of Gudeta Kebede and Senberi Teferi. The former is the reigning world champion for the distance, an accolade she managed in Valencia last year in 1:06:11 to set a women-only world record performance. The 28-year-old Teferi holds a lifetime best of 1:05:45 set in Ras Al Khaimah earlier this year. Her last appearance was in Doha where she failed to finish the 10,000m.

Teferi meanwhile produced the fastest half marathon debut in history in Ras Al Khaimah when she led the Ethiopian 1-2 finish just ahead of Kebede where both clocked 1:05:45. The 24-year-old finished sixth in the Doha 10,000m on her last competition.

Yet the two fastest women in the field are Kenyan duo Fancy Chemutai and Joan Chelimo. The 24-year-old Chemutai came just one second shy of the world record in February 2018 when she won in Ras Al Khaimah in a stunning 1:04:52. She also finished runner-up in Valencia two years ago behind Jepkorir’s world record run.

Meanwhile, Chelimo boasts a 1:05:04 clocking set in Prague last year but hasn’t shown similar form this year, with a season’s best of 1:08:01 and a 2:26:24 performnce in her marathon debut in Tokyo last March. The third Kenyan in contention will be Dorcas Tutoek, author of a couple of solid performances earlier this year in Istanbul (1:06:33) and Copenhagen (1:06:36).

Further notable entrants include United Arab Emirates’ Alia Mohamed Saeed, runner-up last year in a lifetime best of 1:06:13, Ethiopians Genet Ayalew (1:06:26) and Meseret Belete, who holds the world U20 best courtesy of her 1:07:51 set last year in Copenhagen.

Kejelcha leads solid men’s field

Ethiopia’s newly-minted world 10,000 silver medallist Yomif Kejelcha should be regarded as one of the men to beat. The 22-year-old, who broke the world indoor mile record with 3:47.01 in March, also boasts an impressive range which includes a 59:17 half marathon best from his debut last year. Sunday marks just his second half marathon outing.

Kejelcha will be joined by compatriot Jemal Yimer who finished runner-up here last year with a 58:33 national record.

Relatively unheralded Kenyan Geoffrey Koech could also be a factor. The 26-year-old won the Prague 10km last month in a career best of 27:02, fastest in the world this year. He set his 59:50 lifetime best in Copenhagen two years ago.

Other Kenyans on show include Benard Ngeno, who clocked a 59:16 career best in Copenhagen last month, Albert Kangogo (SB of 1:01:08), Leonard Barsoton (PB of 59:28) and Isaac Kipsang who lowered his best to 59:44 in Lisbon last March.

The Eritrean challenge will be led by Nguse Amsolom, a 59:39 runner who will be making his marathon debut in Valencia on 1 December. He’ll be joined by world half marathon bronze medallist Aron Kifle, who is still on the mend from a stomach infection that forced him to settle for a 15th place finish in the 10,000m. Others to watch include 2015 world marathon champion Ghirmay Gebrselassie who will be competing the first time this year and Norway’s Sondre Moen (59:48).

Organisers are offering a €70,000 (US$ 77,700) world record bonus on top of an additional €30,000 (US$ 33,300) bonus for landmark performances, sub 58:00 for men and sub-1:04:30 for women.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF

 

Teferi and Beji back to defend titles in Changsha

Ethiopia’s defending champions and course record holders Fikadu Teferi and Bekelu Beji will both return to the Chinese city of Shangsha, eyeing to retain their titles in the men’s and women’s races at the 2019 Changsha International Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race on Sunday (27).

The 26-year-old Teferi clocked 2:11:13 to win in Changsha last year, edging Tafese Delegen by 12 seconds and improving the course record by nearly four minutes.

It was Teferi’s fourth title over the classic distance following victories in Beirut, Moline and Columbus. He also took top honours at the 2019 Marrakech International Marathon in January setting a personal best of 2:08:43.

Abraham Girma of Ethiopia, 33, is the fastest entrant thanks to his 2:06:48 career-best achieved in Amsterdam back in 2012. However, he has not managed to dip under the 2:10 barrier since finishing second in Hengshui in September 2013 and his last marathon title dates back to 2017 when he won the Metz Marathon in 2:12:27.

Like Girma, Kenya’s Ronald Kipkoech Korir is also struggling to recover his best form. The 28-year-old owns a 2:07:29 PB from his sixth place finish at the 2014 Frankfurt Marathon, but failed to break 2:10 after a 2:09:01 clocking in Seoul three years ago. He grabbed the title at the Muscat Marathon in Oman in January and most recently clocked 2:12:48 to finish sixth in Geneva.

Ethiopian veteran Workneh Tesfa could be the biggest threat to Teferi. The 35-year-old registered his life-time best of 2:08:51 in 2015 and came close to that mark six months ago when he clocked 2:09:17 to finish second in Rome.

Beji trimmed more than one minute off her PB to notch the Changsha title last year with a new course record of 2:32:56. Seven months ago the 20-year-old rising Ethiopian further improved her PB to 2:28:21 to finish second in Wuxi.

Beji’s countrywomen Tigist Teshome and Ayantu Abera also renewed their career best marks this season. The 32-year-old Teshome, who won the 2018 Castellon Marathon, Medellin Marathon and the 2014 Riga Marathon, clocked 2:29:17 to finish sixth in Barcelona in March, while the 24-year-old Abera broke 2:30 for the first time to win the 2019 Padova Marathon in 2:29:30.

Other sub-2:30 runners in the women’s field are Nancy Jebet Koech of Kenya, who clocked 2:29:30 to finish fourth in Daegu two years ago and went on to take the title of Malaga Marathon in December 2017, and Ukraine’s Olha Kotovska, who clocked 2:28:47 to win the Rennes Marathon in 2014 and achieved a best mark of 2:29:13 on a record-eligible course at the Hannover Marathon in the following year. 

Vincent Wu for the IAAF

 

Kenyans Kimutai and Cherop the favourites in Venice

Kenyan Andrew Ben Kimutai starts as the fastest runner in the men’s field at the 34th edition of the Hauwei Venice Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race on Sunday (27). The 30-year-old, who set his 2:08:32 personal best at the Seville Marathon in 2018, won this year's Wuhan Marathon in China in 2:10:06.

 

Andrew Ben Kimutai winning the Wuhan Marathon (Organisers)Andrew Ben Kimutai winning the Wuhan Marathon (Organisers) © Copyright

 

Kimutai will take on compatriot Geoffrey Yegon, who finished second at the Rome Ostia Half Marathon in 1:00:23 and has four sub-one hour half marathon runs to his credit. He clocked 59:56 at the Prague Half Marathon in 2018 and has a career best of 59:44 from 2016.

The men’s line-up also features Moses Mengich of Kenya, who was second at the Treviso Marathon in 2019 and Ethiopians Asefa Habtamu (2:08:32 in Dubai 2013) and Tsegaye Hiluf (PB 2:12:30 in Barcelona 2018).

The top Italian runner is Ahmed Nasef, who won the national marathon titles in 2016 and 2017.

The favourite in the women’s race is Kenya’s Cynthia Cherop, who clocked 2:25:55 on a slightly downhill course at the Los Angeles Marathon in March and finished runner-up at the Gothenburg Half Marathon setting her PB with 1:08:26 in May.

She'll face compatriots Judith Korir, winner at the Belgrade Marathon this year, and Jackline Autonyang, who will make her debut over the distance.

More than 13,000 runners are expected to take part in the Venice Marathon and the popular 10km mass race.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF

 

Adugna aiming to retain Marseille Cassis title

Olika Adugna of Ethiopia will be aiming to defend his title at the 41st edition of Marseille Cassis 20km on Sunday (27).

It’s been 12 years since Wilson Chebet retained his title in the race, the last runner to do so. Last year the 20-year-old Adugna defeated Amera Kuma following a fierce sprint. But Adugna, who clocked a half marathon PB of 1:01:43 one year ago, has a season’s best of just 1:04:23 from August, so doesn’t seem to his in his best shape.

 

Adugna Takele wins the Usti nad Labem Half Marathon (Organisers)Adugna Takele wins the Usti nad Labem Half Marathon (Organisers) © Copyright

 

One of Adugna’s rivals will be Vincent Gerald of Kenya, who also knows the challenging course along the French Mediterranean coastline. He rounded out the podium last year in 1:00:33, just four seconds behind Adugna.

Yasin Haji, who’ll be making his debut in this event, will be another strong contender. The Ethiopian, 23, is the fastest man on the field courtesy of a 1:01:19 half marathon career best, a time he ran just two weeks ago.

Josphat Kiproo Menjo should also be a threat, on paper, as he is the fastest man in the field over 10km, although his 27:04 came nine years ago.

The Kenyan, who turned 40 in August, set his half marathon best in March 2018 when running 1:01:36. In 2019 he clocked season’s best of 28:37 and 1:06:23.

Dennis Rutoh will have a role to play following his victory at the Montbéliard half marathon last September in a new lifetime best of 1:01:44. He also set his 10 km best in July with 28:21. 

French hopes will rest on Mohammed Serghini and Julien Devanne. The latter won within a month both half marathon and marathon national titles.

On the women’s side, Brillian Jepkorir Kipkoech looks to be the favourite to succeed to Gete Alemayehu. 

The Kenyan, 24, improved her half marathon best one month ago with a 1:07:12 run. She also bettered her 10km best to 31:04 in July. She seems to have a big margin over the rest of the field.

Compatriots Susan Kipsang Jeptoo and Lucy Macharia should be her main rivals. The former improved her 10km, half marathon and marathon bests in 2019 while the latter finished fourth at last year’s event.

French hopes will rest on the shoulders of Elodie Normand and Leonie Periault.

The start takes place near Marseille’s well-known Velodrome Stadium and then follows the Mediterranean coast before a tough 327-metre climb up to the Col de la Gineste halfway through the race. Runners then wind down a long descent towards the finish line in the port town of Cassis.

Quentin Guillon for the IAAF