Runners in action at the Barcelona Marathon (© AFP / Getty Images)
The Zurich Barcelona Marathon, which holds IAAF Bronze Label Road Race status for the first time in its history, has set its first record before the event takes place as no fewer than 20,221 competitors will gather in the Spanish city on Sunday (13 March).
Race organisers have also brought together an interesting line-up, with the men’s field headed by Ethiopia’s Dino Sefir, whose 2:04:50 clocking at the 2012 Dubai Marathon made him the eighth-fastest man in history at that time.
But, having since struggled with injuries, the 27-year-old hasn’t come within four minutes of that performance. He is hopeful, though, of returning to his best in Barcelona to stake his claim for a spot on the Olympic team to make up for his experience at the last Games where he failed to finish.
He will be joined by compatriot Caleb Keshebo, who clocked 2:09:44 on his marathon debut last year. But the two Ethiopians will face a host of strong Kenyans in Barcelona.
Jafred Chirchir Kipchumba, who clocked a best of 2:05:48 in Eindhoven five years ago, is the fastest Kenyan in the field. The 32-year-old finished second in Seville last year in 2:10:26, his fastest time since recording his PB.
Other Kenyans in the field include Daniel Kosgei, Dominic Kangor, Pius Kiprop and Joseph Kiprono Kiptum, all of whom have run faster than 2:10. Albert Korir could be a dark horse, though. He won last year’s Eldoret Marathon in 2:21:14 so will likely run a lot quicker at sea level.
Eight pacemakers have been given the task of making the race fast enough to challenge the course record of 2:07:30, which was set in 2010 by Jackson Kotut. The scheduled half-way split is 1:03:30.
2015 champion returns
Ethiopia’s Aynalem Kassahun will defend her title in the women’s race. Last year, in just her second ever marathon, she triumphed in a PB of 2:28:18. Her target this year is the course record of 2:26:53, set by Emily Samoei in 2012.
But there are other women capable of winning. Eldoret Marathon champion Valary Aiyabei and 2014 Dublin Marathon champion Esther Wanjiru Macharia are the fastest Kenyans in the field.
Ethiopia’s Belaynesh Shifera will be aiming to improve on her performance from last year, having finished third in a PB of 2:31:08, while Uganda’s Adero Nyakisi will try to improve on the 2:34:54 national record she set on her marathon debut last year.
Held for the first time in 1977, the marathon route passes several iconic landmarks, including ‘La Sagrada Familia’, ‘el Arco del Triunfo’ and ‘Camp Nou’. Weather forecasters predict a partially cloudy day with little chance of rain and temperatures between 8-11C at the time of the event.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF