Madrid’s 49th San Silvestre Vallecana, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race and possibly the most prestigious of the myriad of New Year’s Eve races around the world, could see Kenyan runners get the upper hand again on Tuesday (31).
The men’s race on the slightly downhill 10km point-to-point course - which starts alongside the famous Santiago Bernabeu stadium of Real Madrid and finishes on the pitch of another Spanish first division club Rayo Vallecano in the Madrid suburbs - has Leonard Komon as the favourite.
He is hoping to become the first Kenyan to win since Moses Masai did so in 2009.
Komon is a hugely accomplished road runner to such an extent that he holds the world records at both the 10 and 15km with times of 26:44 and 41.13 at Dutch races in 2010.
More recently, the Kenyan won a 10km road race in Berlin with a 27:48 performance on 13 October and a 15km event held in Nijmegen – the venue of his world record – where he managed 42:15 on 17 November.
Komon is also a familiar face at Spanish cross country races, having won on a regular basis since 2008 but Tuesday night’s will mark his first outing at the prestigious San Silvestre Vallecana, which was first contested in 1964.
In the absence of the usual contingent of top Ethiopian and Eritrea runners of recent years, if anyone is to challenge Komon it could be Spain’s two time Spar European Cross Country Championships silver medallist Ayad Lamdassem.
Lamdassem has placed successively second, third and second again over the last three years and is eager to finally take the top position, a decade after the last Spanish winner, Chema Martinez, in 2003.
“It is the race that I really look forward to at the end of the year. It is very exciting and so much so that sometimes I’ve got carried away and made tactical mistakes, such as when I was about to beat Zersenay Tadese (Eritrea’s five-time IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and winner in 2010)," reflected Lamdassem.
Silva looking to finally strike gold
Portugal’s Rui Silva should also be in contention. The 36-year-old former IAAF World Indoor Championships 1500m winner has managed creditable times throughout his career in a variety of distances ranging from the 800m to the marathon, an event Silva first tackled last September in Berlin where he had a promising debut in 2h12:16.
Similarly to Lamdassem, Silva has made the podium on several occasions and was second back in 2003 and third in 2005 but never won the race.
Other Spanish hopes mainly rest on the promising 23 year-old Roberto Alaiz who was third in the San Silvestre Vallecana 12 months ago and Javier Guerra, a fine 15th place in the marathon at last summer’s World Championships.
Watch out too to Great Britain’s Scott Overall and Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi, the latter having finished no less than eight (!) marathons in 2013 topped by a personal best of 2:08:14 in Seoul on 17 March.
Kawauchi has never dipped under 29 minutes over 10km, a feat the Japanese runner has targeted in Madrid.
Like in the men's race, no Kenyan woman has won since 2009, when Vivian Cheruiyot took the honours, but this year there is a pair of high calibre Kenyan women in the field: the 2009 World Championships 10,000m winner Linet Masai and Rita Jeptoo, who performed brilliantly at the Chicago Marathon in October where she had an emphatic win in a massive career best of 2:19:57.
Masai aims to make her mark in Madrid
Masai, now 24 and three times and IAAF World Cross Country Championships silver medallist, has had a couple of fine results recently as she grabbed second place at two major cross country races, the Atapuerca IAAF Cross Country Permit race on 17 November and then L’Acier contest in France the following Sunday.
Last year at the San Silvestre Vallecana, Masai was second but was clearly defeated by Ethiopia’s Gelete Burka and so she has some unfinished business in the Spanish capital.
Masai's younger sister Magdalene will also be in show trying to take a place on the podium alongside her renowned sister and emulate their brother Moses, who won four years ago.
Another strong contender should be Portugal’s Jessica Augusto.
The 32 year-old won in Madrid three years ago with 31:59, just a few weeks after she took the European cross country title.
The Spanish contingent includes the former European 1500m champion Nuria Fernandez, who has recently returned to competition after giving birth to her second daughter.
Forecasters predict a cloudy night on Tuesday with an 80% chance of rain and temperatures ranging between 5-7 degrees Celsius by the time of the event.
In addition to the elite contest, there will be a mass race with almost 40,000 entrants taking the streets 2.5 hours before the main event.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF