It has been just three weeks since Duncan Koech competed in his last Marathon, but the Kenyan is set to tackle another 26 miles this Sunday (19) at the Nordea Riga Marathon – an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race – in the Latvian capital.
At the end of April the 31-year-old finished third in Dusseldorf in 2:09:10, little more than a minute outside his lifetime best of 2:07:53 set last autumn when finishing third in Cologne.
The former winner of the Hannover and Bucharest Marathons is easily the fastest man in the field, but if he is still feeling the effects of his efforts in Dusseldorf last month, he could be seriously challenged by the others in the field. The course record of 2:15:48 could also be under threat.
Maindi Elias, twice a winner of the Linz Marathon, is the next fastest in the field with a 2:10:18 PB. He will be joined by fellow Kenyans Victor Chelokoi, who clocked 2:14:49 as a junior to win the Salzburg Marathon, and Peter Sitienei, whose Marathon PB of 2:11:32 was set in the altitude of Nairobi.
The underdog could be Ethiopia’s Mengistu Tabor Nebsi, whose only Marathon performance to date was a 2:15:13 clocking in Berlin 2010, but based on his 61:31 Half-marathon performance in New York last year, he looks capable of going much quicker over the full distance.
There will be two Marathon debutants in the men’s elite field, including Kenya’s Patrick Kimeli, who has a 62:19 Half-marathon PB, and Uganda’s Ben Siwa, a 2010 Commonwealth finalist in the 3000m Steeplechase.
Nesga faces strong European challenge
Ethiopia’s Aberash Nesga boasts the fastest season’s best of the women’s elite field, which could make her the marginal favourite. Her lifetime best of 2:29:47 was set two years ago when she finished runner-up in Reims.
But Russia’s Alena Samokhvalova could pose a threat with her PB of 2:28:43. The former Russian Half-marathon champion is a World and European finalist over 10,000m, an event in which she claims a 31:12.57 PB. She finished fifth in Warsaw at the end of April and will be hoping to run faster in Riga than her 2:39:24 there.
Also entered is Lithuanian record-holder Zivile Balciunaite, the fastest in the field with her 2:25:15 PB. She competed at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, finishing in the top 15 both times.
Ugandan record-holder Jane Suuto and Marathon debutante Fiori Asefaw of Eritrea are also in the field. If conditions are good, the women’s course record of 2:37:14, set in 2011 by Ethiopia’s Desta Girma, could be put under pressure.
This is the 23rd edition of the race and it is set to be the biggest ever with more than 22,000 runners entered across several distances including a 5km, 10km, Half-marathon and the Marathon. The latter will feature 1300 participants from more than 60 countries.
“It will be a tough race,” said race director Aigars Nords. “With the field as strong as this, we believe that the course record of 2:15:48, established by Julius Kuto in 2011, should fall. The weather, however, is not helping and temperatures are expected to rise up to 25°C during the race.”
Jon Mulkeen and organisers for the IAAF
Duncan Koech (KEN) 2:07:53
Maindi Elias (KEN) 2:10:18
Peter Sitienei (KEN) 2:11:32
Victor Chelokoi (KEN) 2:14:49
Mengistu Tabor Nebsi (ETH) 2:15:13
Tewelde Naam Weldeyohans (ERI) 2:16:00
Ben Siwa (UGA) debut
Patrick Kimeli (KEN) debut
Zivile Balciunaite (LTU) 2:25:15
Alena Samokhvalova (RUS) 2:28:43
Aberash Nesga (ETH) 2:29:47
Jane Suuto (UGA) 2:40:31
Fiori Asefaw (ERI) debut