On paper, little separates Emily Chebet and Mamitu Daska as they head to Albany for this weekend’s Freihofer’s Run For Women, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race over 5km, on 31 May.
Both athletes have won in Albany twice before. They have faced each other twice in the past at this race and have one win apiece. Even their career head-to-head record is equal at three wins each.
Chebet, the two-time world cross-country champion from Kenya, set the course record of 15:12 in 2010 and then returned last year to regain her title. In between those victories, Ethiopia’s Daska secured back-to-back wins in 2011 and 2012.
“I’m expecting this to be quite a contest,” said event director George Regan. “This is a tough course and only a handful of women have won Freihofer’s crowns three or more times (Lynn Jennings, Marla Runyan and Benita Willis). Emily and Mamitu are going to have to run a terrific race to earn a spot on that prestigious list.”
But even then, there’s no guarantee that one of these former winners will break the tape again in Albany, such is the quality of the field.
Ethiopia’s Bezunesh Deba, who clocked a PB of 2:19:59 when finishing second in this year’s Boston Marathon, is in the form of her life. The 26-year-old races almost exclusively in the US, but this will be her first time racing in the Run For Women in Albany.
Kenya’s Lucy Kabuu is another member of the sub-2:20 marathon club. The two-time Olympic 10,000m finalist won the Commonwealth Games title back in 2006 but has since gone from strength to strength. She enters this weekend’s race fresh from a 31:46 victory over 10km in Bangalore.
Former Ethiopian steeplechase record-holder Zemzem Ahmed is now forging a career on the roads and will be looking to improve on her eighth-place finish in Albany last year.
Since finishing just outside the top three in Albany last year, USA’s Amy Van Alstine has twice improved her 5km PB, bringing it down to 15:30. The US cross-country champion has also improved on her 5000m PB this season, clocking 15:22.98, and in Albany will be looking to become the first US winner in 10 years.
Megan Hogan is another strong US contender. She finished 10th in Albany last year, but was fifth in 2011 when she set her PB of 15:54.
Other top athletes in the field include Ethiopian duo Afera Godfay and Genet Beyene, Kenya’s Agnes Cheserek, South African 10km champion Nolene Conrad and Morocco’s Rkia El Moukim.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF