When Ethiopia’s Abebech Afework placed second at the ABN-AMRO Marathon Rotterdam last year, it was her highest ever finish in a marathon. But the 23-year-old Ethiopian heads to this year’s edition of the IAAF Gold Label Road Race fresh from a victory in Houston.
Now she knows what it feels like to win a race over the classic distance, she is keen to do so again on 13 April.
Her personal best of 2:23:59, set in last year’s race in Rotterdam, makes her the fastest woman in the field. It also suggests that the course record of 2:18:58 – set two years ago by Olympic champion Tiki Gelana – is out of the question.
Instead, victory is the main target for Afework. Her strongest challenge could come from compatriot Goitetom Haftu, who has a personal best of 2:26:21 and won marathons in Warsaw and Guangzhou last year.
Kenya’s Diana Sigei will also be a threat. Although she has never made it on to the podium at a marathon, she has a respectable PB of 2:26:53, while her half-marathon PB of 1:08:08 is the fastest of the field.
Former Eindhoven Marathon winner Beata Naigambo will be looking to rebound after the disappointment of dropping out of the World Championships marathon last August. The Namibian has a best of 2:27:54, set just last year, and will be keen to regain the national record after Helalia Johannes broke it in 2012 with 2:26:09.
The European challenge will be led by Netherlands’ Stefanie Bouma, who finished in the top 10 in Rotterdam last year on her marathon debut, and Slovenia’s Zana Jereb, who competed at the 2012 Olympics.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF