Paris, FranceKenyans Joshua Chelanga and James Rotich will be the favourites for the 34th edition of Marathon de Paris – IAAF Gold Label Road Race - on Sunday 11 April, while Ethiopian Atsede Bayisa will try to repeat her 2009 victory in the women’s race.
The race will start at 8:45 (CET) from the Champs Elysée Avenue, with the 40,000 participants, from about 95 countries, running through Rue de Rivoli, Bastille, ascending up to Route Saint-Hubert at the 14th km then turning in Bois de Vincennes, to West direction along the Seine in a long slope, before joining the Bois de Boulogne where there will be the second uphill section, and finishing on Foch Avenue. No less than 200,000 spectators are expected for this popular event.
The quality of the men’s race is particularly high with no less than five men having run under 2:08.
Heading the start list is Joshua Chelanga. Author of a 2:07:04 performance in Berlin in 2004, winner in Rotterdam in 2007 but only 14th two years later, the experienced Kenyan who just turned 37 has had a couple of difficult seasons but seems to be ready for a comeback for this Marathon.
Fellow Kenyan James Rotich, who set his 2:07:12 personal best in Amsterdam in 2007, has thoughtfully prepared for the Paris Marathon by taking part last month in the Half Marathon in the French Capital. He will also take advantage of the fact that he already participated to this Marathon two years ago, although with a modest 13th place.
Although he won in Rome in March 2009 setting a 2:07:17 PB, Benjamin Kiptoo has not shown the same form since, and did not finished the Berlin World Championships in August, and so if there will be challengers to Chelanga and Rotich they are more likely to be found in two other Kenyans.
Stephen Kibiwot (2nd in Prague in May 2009 with 2:07:54 and 60:38 for Half-Marathon in February) and Francis Kibiwott (2:09:00 in November to take the Seoul Marathon), are expected the play the major roles.
Half Marathon specialist Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich, 8th on the all-time list with 58:59 since February 2009 in Ras al Khaimah, will make his debut over the 42,195km distance and might also emerge as one of the leaders in Paris.
Against the Kenyan armada, one Ethiopian should certainly be prominent. Teshome Gelana was the stunning winner of the US National Champs in Houston four months ago where he smashed his personal best by more than 4min to set an excellent 2:07:37. Second to Gelena in Houston was teammate Zenbaba Yegezu who will also line-up in Paris.
The pace of the race will be assured by two prolific marathon runners, France’s James Theuri and Rwandan Dieudonné Disi, in order to set the race on the course record broken last year in 2:05.47 by Vincent Kipruto, who will not defend his crown.
Christelle Daunay will be the main local attraction in the women’s race. Third last year in 2:25:43, breaking her own record of 2:28:24, the French woman reconfirmed her form in November with a 3rd spot in a tactical race in New York (2:29:16).
“I have lived in Paris since 2006, so I know the course by heart, that’s why my result last year was so important for me”, she recalls. “On Sunday, I hope to improve my rank and I will have to run faster. I have trained very hard for eight weeks, with a peak in February when I ran 180km per week.”
Daunay, 35, will be challenged by a pair of young Ethiopians, who has asked for a pace geared toward 2:20, which is below the old course record held by Marleen Renders in 2:23:05 (2003).
Atsede Bayisa, 22, winner last year in 2:24:42 is attempting to retain her Paris title make a double, after two convincing wins, in Xiamen Marathon (2:28:53) in January in a solo run and at the Paris Half Marathon (71:05) in March in very cold weather, where she beat her Ethiopian teammate Tirfe Tsegaye Beyene (71:13) during an aggressive tactical race. Tsegaye, 25-years-old and a 2:28.16 performer, will be the 3rd challenger on Sunday.
The weather forecast predicts a partly cloudy morning in Paris on Sunday with cool temperature which might be ideal for high quality performances and a difficult course which has surprisingly often provided fast times. Indeed last year, the depth was exceptional with six men broking the 2:07 barrier and eleven under 2:09.
P-J Vazel for the IAAF