Athens, GreeceThe Athens Classic Marathon on Sunday 2 November provides an opportunity for Ethiopian Simretu Alemayehu to a bit of "homework" for his nations gold medal hopes ahead of next year's Olympic race on the same course.
Alemayehu, 33, who was 10th in the 2001 World Championships (2:17:35) and 22nd at the 2000 Olympics (2:17:21) but holds a fast 2:07:45 personal best which he set when winning the 2001 Turin Marathon, sees himself very much as a scout for his colleagues back home in Addis Ababa.
"My first objective is to win, of course, but I'm also here to do homework for all the Ethiopians."
As a member of the national marathon squad, which includes Gezahegne Abera, the first man to win both Olympic and World titles (2000/1), Alemayehu adds "I'll bring intelligence back to the national coaches, on the rise and fall of the course and the flat parts.”
That should be fairly straightforward. This original Olympic course, first run in 1896 from the village of Marathon to Athens is one of the toughest in the world. The first 15 kilometres - which includes a diversion around the burial mound of the soldiers killed in the famous battle in 490BC, which inspired the race - is relatively flat. It then rises gradually for close to 20k, before wheeling down the final 5k into the impressive marble Panathenaikon Stadium, built for the first modern Olympic Games in Athens 107 years ago.
Alemayehu confirms he only wants to win against the dominating Kenyans, led by last year's winner, Mark Saina. But one man prepared to stick his neck out and predict a new course record was Zebedayo Bayo of Tanzania who won the Tokyo Marathon in February (2:09:07).
Bayo, 27, from Arusha on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, has a personal best of 2:08:51 from when he finished third in the New York Marathon in 1998. He has already run three marathons in 2003 including the World Championship race which he did not finish but with a season’s best of 2:08:54 (Paris City marathon in April) confirmed "I think I can do 2.10 here". The record, which dates from 1969 is 2.11.07, by Britain's Bill Adcocks.
Pat Butcher and IAAF