The 11th edition of the Xiamen International Marathon in China will be held on Sunday morning (6) in the beautiful surroundings of a city boasting of almost two million inhabitants.
The race started in 2003 and has quickly evolved into a strong international marathon and now has the status of an IAAF Gold Label Race.
Last year’s winner, Kenya’s Peter Kamais, ran a course record and personal best of 2:07:37 in 2012 and he is back to defend his title.
Kamais, 36, has only completed five marathons during his long career after being mainly a road runner and set personal bests of 27:11.09 over 10000m on the track and 27:09 over the same distance on the road in 2008 and 2009 respectively. His 2012 Xiamen marathon performance was mildly surprising as he had only one previous sub-2:10 clocking, at the 2011 Boston race when he ran 2:09:50.
However, the role of pre-race favourite has to go to last year’s runner up, and Kamais’ compatriot, Dickson Chumba.
The 26-year-old has a much more accomplished marathon career and after being second in Xiamen in 2:08:21 last year, Chumba went on to win the Marathon Eindhoven in a big personal best and course record of 2:05:46 in October. Running his first marathon in 2010, the Kenyan has now completed six races over the classic distance with five of them under 2:10.
Deep men’s field
There were six runners, five Kenyans and one Ethiopian, who dipped under 2:10 in the 2012 Xiamen race and this year’s field is certainly not any weaker.
It features more than a dozen athletes with times under 2:10 so there are plenty of good runners to potentially challenge the Kenyan duo mentioned above.
Completing last year’s top three, Ethiopia’s Solomon Tsege is coming back to the city where he set a 2:09:01 personal best last year.
The second fastest man in the field, after Chumba, is Mariko Kiplagat who won the Reims marathon in October 2012 in 2:06:05, cutting almost three minutes off his four-year-old previous best. Kiplagat celebrated his 38th birthday on Tuesday and this will be the first race in Asia.
One of the athletes who could surprise here might be just 20-year-old Gebretsadik Adhana, who won the 10000m silver medal at the 2010 IAAF World Junior Championships. The Ethiopian has only one marathon race under his belt, but it was a breathtaking debut in Amsterdam last October when he clocked 2:06:21 for second place.
Another young newcomer is Kenya’s Paul Lonyangat. The 20-year-old won the bronze medal in the 2010 World Junior Championships 10000m race behind Adhana and will be running his debut marathon here following a good 60:43 half marathon in Philadelphia last September, which was also his first outing over that distance.
Another Kenyan, the 24-year-old David Barmasai, had a disappointing 2012 season but did well in 2011 and recorded a 2:07:18 personal best with a win in Dubai before finishing fifth at the World Championships that summer.
Julius Maisei, also from Kenya, recorded his first sub-2:10 marathon with a second place finish in the Chinese city of Hengshui in September when he clocked 2:08:13 and countryman Isaiah Kosgei returns to China following a fifth place in that same Hengshui race in 2:09:21. The latter has a 2:07:59 personal best from November 2011.
In addition to these names, there are more than10 other runners in the field who have gone under 2:10. The best of the rest is probably Kenya’s Elias Kemboi, who ran 2:07:04 in 2010 and 2:08:51 last year in Amsterdam.
In the women’s race last year, Ethiopia’s Ashu Kasim got really close to the 2:22:38 course record set by Zhang Yingying in 2008 when she ran 2:23.09. Although she is not defending her title, there is enough quality in the field for the course record to be threatened again.
Course record for Jepkirui?
The best time in the field belongs to Kenya’s Eunice Jepkirui, who clocked 2:21:41 in only her second career marathon for the second place in Amsterdam last October.
The 28-year-old, who was a middle distance runner as a teenager and competed at the inaugural IAAF World Youth Championships in 1999 when she was just 15, will be up against some more seasoned runners though, with Ethiopia’s Eyerusalem Kuma in the race as well.
Kuma, 31, was not in her best form in 2012 but has a 2:24:55 personal best from Amsterdam 2011.
Turkey’s Sultan Haydar has a more recent best with a 2:25:09 national record in Paris last April. The 25-year-old also has speed which could come handy in a sprint finish having won the 2009 European Athletics U23 Championships 1500m title.
A good pick for the top three would also be Ethiopia’s 28-year-old Mulu Seboka, who completed four marathons during 2012 and finished with a 2:26:46 win in Guangzhou, China, in November. She also set a 2:25:45 personal best in Dubai last January and ran the three fastest marathons of her career in 2012.
The 21-year-old Ethiopian Fatuma Sado could also be ready for a top placing here. She won the Los Angeles marathon last March in a 2:25:39 personal best and also clocked 2:26:09 in Chicago last October.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF