Exactly five weeks after Kenya’s Abraham Kiptum set the world half marathon record of 58:18, both men’s and women’s event records will be under threat at the Maratón Valencia Trinidad Alfonso EDP, an IAAF Gold Label road race in the same eastern Spanish city on Sunday (2).
The current standards, which also double up as Spanish all-comers' records, stand at 2:05:15 and 2:24:48, set in 2017 and 2016 respectively. Boosted by the success of last October’s half marathon, the organisers have brought together a quality line-up capable of improving those marks on Sunday.
Men’s race – Kitwara vs Gebrselassie
Five men in the field have previously run quicker than 2:06:00 on at least one occasion headed by Ethiopia’s Leul Gebrselassie. The 25-year-old boasts a 2:04:02 lifetime best set last January in Dubai on his debut over the distance, barely three seconds slower than his illustrious countryman Haile Gebrselassie’s career best. He finished tenth at this year’s World Half Marathon Championships held in Valencia and holds a 59:18 personal best for the distance set in Valencia last year.
One of his stiffest opponents should be defending champion Sammy Kitwara, who turned 32 years earlier this week. The Kenyan managed the 2:05:15 course record last year, his second ever behind his 2:04:28 career best stands set in Chicago in 2014. On current form, Kitwara has only raced once this year, finishing 15th in Lisbon over the half marathon when he was credited at 1:01:12.
He will be joined by his fellow Kenyan Norbert Kigen, who clocked 2:05:13 in Amsterdam in 2017. He will be making his second appearance of the season after dropping out in Boston last April. Mathew Kisorio, who clocked 2:06:36 in Paris earlier this year and ran a 1:02:18 time for the half marathon in the altitude of Eldoret last month and Solomon Yego (2:07:12) will also be in contention.
Eritrea's Yohanes Gebregergis, a creditable seventh at the World Championships last year, should also be tipped as one of the main favourites. The Madrid-based 24-year-old ran 1:00:16 for the half marathon in Lisbon earlier this year and holds a PB of 2:08:14.
Ethiopia’s Deribe Robi, third last year in 2:06:38, might also be a factor on Sunday in his fourth race this year over the distance, his best effort being 2:08:51 in Seoul.
Ethiopians eye a clean sweep - women's race
The women’s cast is led by the Ethiopian duo of Ashete Bekele Dido and Hiwot Gebrekidan Gebremariam. The former set a career best of 2:23:27 last April at the Paris marathon in her only appearance this season over any distance while the 23-year-old Gebrekidan, who boasts a 2:25:45 PB seems to be in the form of her life as her 1:07:36 half marathon performance in Copenhagen last September suggests.
Last year’s victor Aberu Mekuria Zennebe will also be on show although she'll need to improve sharply on her 2:35:05 season’s best to be in the hunt for victory. Watch out too for her fellow Ethiopian Haimanot Alemayehu as she recorded a fine second place in Seville last February in a career best of 2:25:51.
Not to be discounted for the victory are two debutants in the guise of Kenya's Pauline Korikwiang, fresh from a 1:06:31 half marathon career set in Valencia one month ago and Ethiopia's current world junior half marathon record holder Meseret Belete Tola, who clocked 1:07:51 for the distance in Copenhagen last 16 September.
A record 22,200 runners, including 3850 women and 7995 overseas entrants from over 90 countries, will take part in Sunday’s race. In addition to the main event, a 10km road race will take place on Sunday. Weather forecasters predict a sunny and windless day with a start time temperature of about 15C.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF