Yemane Tsegay Adhane has been looking for a fast performance for almost 18 months to consolidate his reputation as one of the quickest marathon men around and, after a frustrating 2013, he hopes to finally find it at the Daegu International Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday (6).
Adhane, 28, rose to prominence with fourth place at the 2009 Paris Marathon in 2:06:30 and then repeated that position when he finished just out of the medals at the IAAF World Championships later that summer.
He set his personal best of 2:04:48 when winning the 2012 Rotterdam Marathon. The past 12 months though, have seen his ambitions of improving on that time thwarted by injury and the elements.
He went to the 2013 Daegu International Marathon as the fastest man in the field, only to have to drop out. He was then called up at the last minute to represent Ethiopia at the 2013 IAAF World Championships and finished a brave eighth despite not being completely ready to race.
Fully fit, he started the Marathon Eindhoven in October with a sub-2:06 time as his target and won the race but had to settle for a time of 2:09:11 in a deluge which disrupted all his race plans.
He finished off the year at the Taipei Marathon where he finished second in 2:14:17, his modest time on this occasion due to a downpour of freezing rain during the race.
“I’ve prepared well and so I want a good time,” said Adhane at Friday’s press conference.
The race organisers said that they have asked the pacemakers to go through halfway in 1:03:30 and are hoping for a winning time faster than 2:07, so everything has been set up for Adhane to be granted his wish.
He has an admirable record in the marathon, winning six of his 18 outings to date, and one every year since he made his debut in 2008.
It is a streak he wouldn’t mind continuing on Sunday, regardless of the time.
However, Adhane will face a fairly familiar foe in the form of Kenya’s David Kemboi Kiyeng.
Kiyeng looking for Korean comeback
Kiyeng, now 31 and a winner in Daegu two years ago, also dropped out of last year's race so again returns to the Korean city where he set the current course record 2:07:57 in 2012 with the purpose of becoming the first repeat winner in the men’s race.
“It’s a good course and I know it well, so if there are good weather conditions that we can strive to break the course record,” reflected Kiyeng on Friday.
Notwithstanding last year’s brief encounter, Kiyeng and Adhane have raced each other twice before.
Kiyeng finished one place and four seconds in front of Adhane at the 2009 Paris Marathon, and that time of 2:06:26 remains his PB. But he has been a consistent runner in the past five years, with several victories to his name and he also beat Adhane at the 2011 Seoul Marathon, where the pair finished second and third respectively.
The men’s elite start list can boast of no less than 10 men with personal bests faster than 2:09.
After Adhane, the next fastest man in the field in his compatriot and 2010 world junior 10,000m silver medallist Gebretsadik Abraha, who made an impressive marathon debut in 2012 with 2:06:21 when finishing second at the Amsterdam Marathon.
However, Abraha couldn’t run faster than 2:09 in his three marathons last year and so has not only a point to prove but a question mark over the form he brings to Daegu.
Kenya’s Elijah Keitany can boast of a personal best of 2:06:41 in 2009 and although he hasn’t gone faster in the past five years, like his countryman Kiyeng, has also been reasonably consistent and has run faster than 2:10 every year since then.
Unlike Ketiany, who has never won a marathon, another Kenyan Elijah Kemboi has two victories to his name after having won Antwerp and Kosice in 2011. Making him a credible contender for his third win is the fact that he set his personal best of 2:07:34 in his most recent marathon, finishing third in Frankfurt last October.
Seboka ready to stop being second
Ethiopian runners are the heavy favourites to take the women’s race for the fifth time in the six years that the event has been in existence.
However, the big question is: which one will take the plaudits?
Mulu Seboka finished second in last year’s race when she ran 2:23:43 and was just 15 seconds behind the Kenyan winner Margaret Agai, who set a course record of 2:23:28.
Seboka has already shown she is in good form this year and won the Dubai Marathon in January in 2:25:01. A prolific marathon runner ever since making her debut over the distance in 2003 as a 19-year-old, Daegu will be Seboka’s 31st marathon.
Second fastest in the field, and with a fondness for Korean races, is Emebet Etea Bedada, who posted a best of 2:25:53 when finishing second in the 2013 Seoul race. However, she was less impressive in her most recent marathon and could only clock 2:33:51 for third in January’s Xiamen race.
Etea’s friend, Meseret Legese, finished one place in front of her in Xiamen in a personal best of 2:26:32 and will join her on the start line again in Daegu.
Former Russian marathon champion Nailya Yulamanova has a best of 2:26:05 from when she won the 2009 Rotterdam Marathon but that is almost three minutes better than her next fastest time and, five years from that sort of form, it is hard to envision that she will challenge the Ethiopian armada.
About 16,000 participants are expected to compete in the race, which starts and finishes in the stadium that hosted the 2011 IAAF World Championships.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF