The Yangzhou Jianzhen International Half Marathon men’s course record of 1:01:10 could be under attack as Sunday’s IAAF Gold Label Road Race features two men who have broken the hour mark in their careers
One of them is Kenya’s Silas Kipruto, who already knows the race well having finished second last year in 61:47.
Kipruto, now 28 and who placed fourth at the 2010 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, looks back to his best form after clocking a fast 60:12 in Berlin two weeks ago. He ran under 60 minutes twice in 2010 with the personal best 59:39 coming in Milan in March of that year.
The Berlin result from this season is his third fastest ever, so he receives the mantle of being the race favourite in the absence of last year’s winner, Ethiopia’s Ayele Abshero, who is running the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday.
In 2012, Abshero clocked 1:01:11, just one second shy of the course record set by his compatriot Deriba Merga in 2011.
Kenya’s Kiprop Limo is the other athlete to have gone under 60 minutes for the distance. This performance came in in the Rome-Ostia race in 2012, where he finished in third place in 59:55. Limo hasn’t shown quite the same speed this year returning to the Rome-Ostia race and running 60:42 for fifth place but then went on to win the prestigious Stramilano race in Milan in 61:49 last month.
Another man to look out for is Kenya’s Nicholas Kipkemboi, the 26-year-old runner has already has recorded a fast marathon this season when he ran a personal best of 2:06:33 personal best in Dubai back in January.
Kipkemboi’s Half Marathon best is 60:15, when he won the 2012 Berlin Half Marathon.
This trio of Kenyans will be joined on the start line by the Ethiopian former steeplechaser Yakob Jarso, who placed fourth in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games 3000m Steeplechase but who has eschewed racing over the barriers since the start of 2010.
Jarso, 25, has a Half Marathon best of 60:07 and, as a point of comparison with Kiprop Limo, won the 2012 Stramilano race in 61:07.
In total, there are 14 overseas elite runners in the race with Half Marathon bests below 62 minutes, including Morocco’s 2010 winner Ahmed Baday who returns to the race for the first time since his victory.
Degefa the women's danger
On the women’s side, the third women home last year, Kenya’s Alice Mogire is the top placed runner from 2012 to return to Yangzhou.
The 31-year-old Mogire recorded a personal best 1:09:57 in Valencia last October but has to concede the status of being the most well-known runner in the field to her fellow Kenyan, 40-year-old Catherine Ndereba.
Ndereba, has won two World Championships Marathon gold medals and two Olympic Games Marathon silver medals and has a Half Marathon personal best of 67:54, but that was achieved back in 2001.
There are also three top Ethiopians in the race lead by 23-year-old Worknesh Degefa.
Degefa has only three Half Marathons under her belt, but the last two in 2013 have been impressive with a 1:07:49 personal best in the Rome-Ostia race and then a 1:08:12 clocking in Prague earlier this month.
She is accompanied by 22-year-old Tadelech Bekele, who recently lowered her best to 1:09:31 when winning the Verbania Half Marathon in March. The third member of the Ethiopian trio is Yebrqual Melese, who ran a 1:09:45 personal best last year.
The women’s course record is 1:08:59 by China’s Zhou Chunxiu, which she set in 2008 before going on to take the Olympic Games Marathon bronze medal on home soil in Beijing later that year.
The race also serves as the Chinese National Half Marathon Championships and so there will be considerable local interest but no information was available about which domestic runners will be taking part.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF