15 NOV 2013 Preview Istanbul, Turkey

Merga and Kiprotich both have points to prove in the Istanbul Marathon

Deriba Merga taking the 2009 Boston Marathon crown (Getty Images)Deriba Merga taking the 2009 Boston Marathon crown (Getty Images) © Copyright

Ethiopia’s former Boston Marathon winner Deriba Merga and France’s 2013 Daegu Marathon champion Abraham Kiprotich, the fastest European runner this year, will both have points to prove at the 35th edition of the 2013 Vodafone Istanbul Eurasia Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (17).

Merga, who can boast of a personal best of 2:06:38, has not won a Marathon since his bitter-sweet year of 2009, when he took the honours in Houston and Boston before failing to finish at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin that summer when he was among the favourites for a medal.

He has failed to break 2:21 in his last two Marathon outings, including a modest 27th place at this year’s Boston Marathon, but his outings over shorter distances suggest that he can do better than this in Istanbul.

By contrast, Kiprotich, whose last outing was when he won the Daegu Marathon in Korea earlier this year in a personal best of 2:08:33, will be looking to consolidate on this performance after missing the IAAF World Championships this summer.

Although it may be a tall order for the Kenyan-born former French foreign legionnaire who now marches to the tune of the La Marseillaise, the European record of 2:06:36 – which his compatriot Benoit Zwierzchiewski is the co-holder of, along with Portugal’s Antonio Pinto – is also a target.

Morocco’s Abdellah Falil, with a best of 2:08:18 from when he won in Daegu two years ago, and Ethiopia’s Siraj Gena, a former winner of the Beijing and Rome Marathons who has a best of 2:08:31, should also be in contention for the USD $50,000 first prize.

The men’s course record in Istanbul stands at 2:10:39, set by Kenya’s Vincent Kiplagat in 2010.

The women’s race could be equally competitive.

Ukraine’s national record holder Olena Shurhno, who clocked 2:23:32 when finishing third in Berlin last year, returns to the fray and will be hoping to make up for the disappointment of failing to finish the Tokyo Marathon in February, her last outing over any distance.

Ethiopia’s former Xiamen International Marathon and Seoul Marathon winner Amane Gobena will be hoping to go one better than last year, when she finished second in Istanbul behind her compatriot Koren Jelela Yal.

Gobena has since improved her personal best to 2:23:50 when finishing third in Dubai in January this year.

Kenya’s 2012 Dusseldorf Marathon winner Agnes Barsosio is not far behind Shurhno and Gobena on time, having also improved her best to 2:24:03 when finishing third at the Daegu Marathon in April.

The race also incorporates the Turkish national championship and Turkey’s 2008 double Olympic Games silver medallist and former 5000m World record holder Elvan Abeylegesse will finally make her Marathon debut.

Abeylegesse will face her compatriot and national record holder Sultan Haydar in the battle for domestic honours, however Abeylegesse sees herself as firmly the underdog against the more experienced haydar. “For my first Marathon I would just like to run under 2:30,” she said recently.

Haydar ran 2:25:09 when finishing second in Paris last year but, like Shurhno, she failied to finish in her last Marathon, in this case at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow three months ago.

Also in the women’s field is Ethiopia’s former IAAF World Youth and Junior Championships medallist Bizunesh Urgesa, who won the Istanbul Marathon in 2009.

The women’s course record in Istanbul stands at 2:27:25, and was run by Ethiopia’s Ashu Kasim Rabo in 2010.

The Marathon, which is a unique run spanning two continents and crosses the Bosphorus Bridge, is one of just four races on the day in Istanbul. There are also races over 15km, 10km and a fun run with organisers expecting more than 20,000 runners to take to the streets of Istanbul across all the events.

Phil Minshull and organisers for the IAAF