The Zurich Maraton de Sevilla, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race for the third year in a row, will take place on Sunday (21) and boasts one of the flattest circuits worldwide, with barely 10 metres between the highest and lowest points.
Shiferaw vs Kiplimo
The fastest athlete in the field is Ethiopia’s Berhanu Shiferaw, who clocked 2:04:48 when finishing second in Dubai three years ago. Although the 22-year-old has not dipped under the 2:10 barrier since then, he finished second at the Beijing Marathon five months ago.
One of his toughest challengers should be Kenya’s Cosmas Kiplimo Lagat, the surprise victor in 2014 when he signed up as a pacemaker and reached the tape unopposed in a course record of 2:08:33 on what was his debut at the distance. Like Shiferaw, the Kenyan was not quite so fast in 2015, but he has only contested one other marathon since his 2014 Seville win, so his form is difficult to judge.
Eritrea’s Dawit Weldesilasie could also be a factor in his second outing over the distance. The 21-year-old managed a creditable 1:00:26 half marathon clocking in Valencia last October and made his marathon debut one month later in the same city with 2:15:33, a time which he should improve on Sunday.
Watch out too for the Kenyan pair of Joshua Kipkorir and Shadrack Kimaiyo as both managed their respective career bests of 2:13:25 and 2:13:56 in the altitude of Nairobi last October. Morocco’s Spain-based Mohamed Blal, the winner in Seville in 2012, will try to improve on his 2:11:11 PB, having prepared for this weekend’s race with a 1:03:36 half marathon clocking in Getafe last month.
Seville will also witness the much-awaited debut of Spain’s 2006 European 5000m champion Jesus Espana who, after a long and successful track career, has moved to the roads in his hunt for an Olympic berth.
The 37-year-old showed fine form at the Spanish Half Marathon Championships in January when he landed silver in 1:03:28. His younger brother Francisco will run close to him for the first half of the race which Espana aims to cover in 1:05:30, well inside the required 2:13:00 to make the national team for Rio.
An additional target for Espana will be the Spanish title. His stiffest opponent for that honour looks to be Carles Castillejo, the 2004 and 2008 Olympian who has a best of 2:10:09.
Sub 2:30 the goal
The women’s field is led by Kenya’s Miriam Wangari. The 36-year-old Kenyan set her career best of 2:27:53 in Xiamen last year, but had to settle for a 2:33:27 clocking at this year’s edition of the race in January. This will be her second marathon in seven weeks.
Wangari will be in the company of compatriots Eunice Jeptoo, Rael Jepyator and Nancy Waigumu but – as is the case in the men’s race – other promising athletes will be making their marathon debut, including Ethiopia’s Roman Mengistu, who set a half-marathon PB of 1:11:57 in Copenhagen last September.
Brazil’s Marily Dos Santos, a 2:31:55 performer back in 2012, will be looking to improve on her fifth-place finish from last year.
Spanish hopes rest with Paula Gonzalez, a 30-year-old debutante who will be aiming to win the national title and a sub-2:33 clocking, the Olympic qualifying standard set by the Spanish federation. Gonzalez ran a PB of 1:11:04 to win the Spanish half marathon title in Santa Pola last month and feels ready to achieve the Olympic standard.
The first record of the event came one month ago with a sold-out 13,000 entries from no fewer than 75 countries, 17% of the runners coming from overseas and 11% being women.
The marathon will pass several iconic landmarks, including ‘La Giralda’, one of the largest cathedrals in the world, ‘La Real Maestranza’ bullring or ‘La Torre del Oro’. The finish line will be placed inside La Cartuja stadium, venue of the 1999 IAAF World Championships.
While the summer heat in the city is usually unbearable, the weather at this time of year should be nearly ideal for endurance efforts. Weather forecasters predict a partially sunny day with a temperature between 12-14C by the time of the event.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF