Qatar’s Bellor Yator could break the East African dominance of the men’s race at the Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes Nice-Cannes, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (9).
Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes have won each of the six men’s titles on offer in the brief history of France’s second biggest marathon, with the two nations having three victories apiece, but Yator – although the 30-year-old runner was born in Kenya himself – will stand on the start line in Nice’s Alber I Garden as the slight favourite.
The prolific Yator – this race will be his 22nd marathon – is the fastest man in the field having run 2:08:39 at the Kosice Marathon two years ago. However, one big question will be how well he has recovered after winning the Marseille Marathon less than two months ago in 2:13:50.
Running Yator close could be Ethiopia’s Shume Hailu, who ran his personal best of 2:09:06 when finishing second in this race back in 2011.
Hailu also finished third in 2010 so knows the course well and his experience may be a deciding factor.
Like Yator, he has also won a good standard marathon this year, crossing the line first in Rome in 2:09:47.
The third man in the field with a best faster than 2:10 is Kenya’s Marius Kipserem, who ran 2:09:50 last year in Milan.
However, surprises could be sprung by debutants Philip Cheruiyot and Assefa Aregachew. The Kenyan and Ethiopian runners have little form in European races but have posted strong results in their home countries.
Organisers have been talking in terms of an attack on the course record of 2:08:40, set by Kenya’s Lucas Kanda in 2011, and have recruited French international James Theuri to help with the pace.
In the women’s race, Salina Jebet Kosgei, the 2002 Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion who can boast of a marathon best of 2:23:22 from 2006, returns to defend the title she won 12 months ago in hot and windy conditions, when she ran 2:41:34.
However, Kosgei is now 37 and it would not be too disrespectful to say that her best days may be behind her.
The mantle of being the favourite for the women’s race instead falls jointly on Kenya’s 35-year-old Emily Rotich and Ethiopia’s Tigist Abdi, who have bests of 2:32:10 and 2:32:34 respectively.
If the weather conditions are a bit more conducive to fast running than last year, the course record of 2:30:37, set in 2010 by Ethiopia’s Radiya Roba, may be under threat.
The marathon is one of the most picturesque in Western Europe. After leaving Nice, the race progresses along the French Riviera and weaves its way through the towns of Saint-Laurent-du-Var, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Villeneuve-Loubet, Antibes, Juan-les-Pins and Golfe-Juan before arriving in Cannes and finishing on the Promenade de la Croisette.
Organisers said that about 14,000 runners from 62 countries will participate in three events on Sunday, the marathon, a 2x21km relay and a six-person marathon relay.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF