After the success of its half marathon event held barely four weeks ago, when Kenya’s Abraham Cheroben ran the fastest time in the world this year, the Mediterranean city of Valencia stages its highly regarded marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday (15).
The men’s course record belongs to Kenya’s 2013 winner, Felix Kipkemboi Keny, who clocked 2:07:14 to set a Spanish all-comers’ best in the process but the organisers hope to see the first time under 2:07 on Spanish soil and have a powerful contingent of African runners led by the Ethiopian duo of Seboka Tola Dibaba and Gebretsadik Abraha.
Tola Dibaba, who turned 28 earlier this week, will be the quickest runner on the start line thanks to his 2:06:17 clocking in Dubai back in 2012 although he has also run well this year with 2:07:33 when finishing third in the Paris Marathon.
As for Abraha, he has 2:06:21 to his name from his outing in Amsterdam three years ago, at the age of just 20, and he should be eager to bounce back from his recent lacklustre performance in Hengshui where he ran 2:13:09.
The always-mighty Kenyan armada has dominated the event in recent times and won for the past five years.
Keny returns and will be bidding to become just the third man to win the race twice since its first edition in 1981.
The Valencia Marathon record holder will be having his third appearance over the distance this year after efforts of 2:14:02 and 2:09:05.
Other notable Kenyan names in the men’s field include 2012 Valencia Marathon winner Luka Kanda, the runner-up in Paris earlier this year in a career best of 2:07:20; Philip Kangogo, who took the Barcelona Marathon title last March in 2:08:16; Philemon Rono, 2:08:18 in Hamburg last April; the in-form John Mwangangi, who was second at the Zaandam 10 mile race in 45:58 in September; and Felix Kandie, the 2015 Prague Marathon victor in 2:08:32.
Watch out too for Morocco’s Mustapha El Aziz, who proved to be in fine form at the Valencia Half Marathon one month ago when he managed a personal best of of 1:01:05, while Kenya’s Matthew Kisorio and Eritrea’s marathon debutant Dawit Weldeslasie Hagos, finished second and third with 59:52 and 1:00:27 respectively in Valencia.
Kenya’s Richard Mengich is an accomplished half marathon specialist with no less than four performances under 1:01 this year, topped by a 59:59 fourth place in Berlin, and could also surprise the more experienced marathon runners.
Naigambo ready to strike again
The women’s race has a solid and in-depth field which will also be aiming for a new course record, the current mark being 2:27:01 by Ethiopia’s Azalech Woldeselasse.
Namibia’s Beata Naigambo is the defending winner and looks set to attack Woldeselasse’s mark after her personal best of 2:27:28 in Hamburg last April although she failed to finish in the world championships marathon at the end of August.
She will also be aiming to become the first back-to-back women's winner in more than two decades, since local runner Elisenda Pucurull won her third consecutive title in 1991.
Kenyan hopes rest with the duo of Emily Ngetich, who clocked 2:25:14 last year in Frankfurt, and Janet Rono, 2:26:31 this season in Prague; while Algeria’s Souad Aït Salem, the Hannover Marathon winner in 2:27:21 should also be in the running for a high place and like Naiagambo, she is looking for a modicum of redemption after failing to finish in Beijing.
The event is jointly organized by the City Council of Valencia and the ‘Sociedad Deportiva Correcaminos’ and this year’s event has seen a record 16,500 entries.
In addition to the main event, which was promoted to IAAF Silver Label Road Race status last December, the associated Valencia 10km race will have about 8500 runners.
The start and finish areas of both races are located in the magnificent City of Arts and Sciences, which is close to the centre of Valencia and the course passes some of the city’s most famous landmarks, such as the Formula 1 circuit, the historic city centre, and the America’s Cup port area.
Weather forecasters predict good conditions for distance runner: a relatively sunny day with no wind, and a temperature in the range of 14-16 degrees Celsius during the first couple of hours of the race when the elite runners will be on the road.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF