From humble beginnings, the Edinburgh Marathon has grown into a goliath. And spectators of the 2014 edition of the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race on Sunday (24) in Scotland’s capital city are expected to witness 30,000 participants pass by, as well as a duel for supremacy between Kenya’s David Toniok and a number of his compatriots.
The event, now in its 13th edition, has increased its capacity to become the second-largest running event in the UK behind the London Marathon, incorporating a 10km on the Saturday (24) as well as a half-marathon preceding the main event.
Toniok, a 30-year-old with a personal best of 2:10:39, will start as favourite not only for victory in the men’s race, but to smash the course record of fellow Zachary Kihara, established in 2009, which stands at 2:15:26.
With a route that heads almost consistently downwards from the city’s centre towards the eastern coast and then returns inland once more, Edinburgh has long been viewed as one of Europe’s quickest courses on the days where its worst conditions remain hidden away.
“It is really fast,” said the 2013 women’s champion Risper Kimaiyo, who is returning to defend her title. “But the wind makes it difficult. I still like it.”
That kind of endorsement is welcomed by race director Neil Kilgour, who has been intimately involved in its organisation since its second year, getting a close-up view of its evolution from a small-scale local event to one with international ambitions.
“We never thought it would be anything like this,” he confirms. “It’s gained a momentum. We have 1700 race crew working this weekend, from school kids at water stations, from scout groups raising money for their causes to other areas.
“When I started on a part-time basis, we had two full-time members of staff and a race crew of 100. Now we have 24 staff. It’s a serious event now.”
With neighbouring Glasgow hosting the Commonwealth Games in July, Kilgour admits he has had to await the selection decisions of several national athletics federations in Africa before filling out his field.
Toniok will now be pitted against two other Kenyans: Linus Maiyo, who was third in the 2013 Barcelona Marathon and who has a PB of 2:11:34, and Elicky Mase, who has run just two marathons to date but has the fastest half-marathon PB of the field with 1:01:36.
The male domestic field includes Ian McBride and Tarus Elly, both of Salford Harriers, as well as Scotland’s Kerry Liam Wilson.
Kimaiyo, who took first place 12 months ago in 2:35:57, can expect a challenge from Ukraine’s Kateryna Stetsenko whose personal best of 2:27:51 was set in Dublin in 2010 while French athlete Adeline Roche may also push herself into the frame.
“The Commonwealth Games has impacted on the elite,” confirms Kilgour. “The selection policies of the African nations vary widely from country to country and that’s made our job trickier this year to find the athletes who are available and meet our criteria.
“It probably adds to the mix though because the athletes have something to prove and it’s going to make our elite field very competitive. The women’s race is seriously rapid. So I think we’ll see really good times.”
The half-marathon also features 41-year-old British international Hayley Haining, who will compete for Scotland at the Commonwealths, while the 10km features another Glasgow-bound athlete, Derek Hawkins.
And the 26-mile field will include Kenyan athlete Japhet Koech, the star of the international best-selling book ‘Running with the Kenyans’ by Adharanand Finn.
His participation in Edinburgh, the organisers say, has been paid for by monies raised from within the running community, in addition to the Edinburgh Marathon’s own resources.
Mark Woods for the IAAF