Degitu Azmeraw will return to defend her tile at the Tata Steel Kolkata 25K, an IAAF Bronze Label road race, on Sunday 16 December.
Last year, the 18-year-old Ethiopian surprised everyone by taking the honours in a course record of 1:26.01 in her first international race.
In 2018, Azmeraw has shown that her win in the City of Joy was no fluke with three excellent half marathon performances, including improving her personal best to 1:06:47 at the RAK Half Marathon in February and later winning the Gifu Half Marathon in Japan.
Alongside Azmeraw on the start line will be Florence Kiplagat, a gold medallist at the 2009 IAAF World Cross Country Championships and the 2010 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and also a former half marathon world record holder.
Now 31, Kiplagat will come to Kolkata with a burning desire to do well.
Twelve months ago, she was signed up and intending to compete in the race but was injured shortly before in the Chicago Marathon and was not fit enough to be on the start line in Kolkata.
In fact, Kiplagat did not race for a year until she finished fourth at this year’s Chicago Marathon last month. This will be her first trip to Kolkata but it is far from Kiplagat’s first time on Indian soil as she is a two-time former winner of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon.
The target for the men’s field is the Indian all-comers best and course record of 1:13:48 set by Ethiopian distance running legend Kenenisa Bekele last year, the first year since the TSK25K was inaugurated in 2014 that top overseas runners came to challenge the leading Indian men and women.
Heading the men’s field this year is Bekele’s compatriot, Ethiopia’s Birhanu Legese, who will be a familiar face to Indian athletics fans as he is a two-time Delhi Half Marathon champion and has run no less than six times in Procam International races, most recently in May this year when he was second in the TCSW10K in Bengaluru.
Legese will face Kenya’s Eric Kiptanui, who can boast of being the third-fastest half marathon runner of 2018 after his 58:42 run in Berlin earlier in the year. Kiptanui will be aiming to bounce back to form after injury kept him out of this year’s Delhi Half Marathon.
Into the bargain, the men’s field also contains Tanzanian marathon record holder Augustino Sulle who was third in this race last year.
The course goes along the historic Red Road that runs through the heart of Kolkata, as well as many other familiar sights of the city including Victoria Memorial and the Eden Gardens.
Organisers for the IAAF
Birhanu Legese (ETH)
Eric Kiptanui (KEN)
Augustino Sulle (TAN)
Amos Kipruto (KEN)
Samson Gebreyohannes (ERI)
Nathan Ayeko (UGA)
Fentahun Hunegnaw (ETH)
Degitu Azmeraw (ETH)
Florence Kiplagat (KEN)
Failuna Matanga (TAN)
Sutume Asefa (ETH)