Beirut, LebanonWith less than 24 hours to go before the Blom Beirut Marathon, tension and ongoing violence pervades the air in the Lebanon ahead of presidential elections next Wednesday.
Ethiopia’s Debele Tekemedhin Senbeta (PB 2:13:41) will start as favourite as organisers of the Marathon in the capital again defy the country's political problems to stage the fifth edition of the race on Sunday (18).
Senbeta is one of a large group of African runners supporting an event which does not have the financial backing to attract world beaters, and instead relies on athletes' personal passions to compete in the beleaguered Lebanon.
Last year's race had to be postponed after the untimely murder of a cabinet minister and when the race did take place two weeks later, there were mass demonstrations in the city. The unrest between political parties saw the course slightly altered after a mass of protesters, reckoned to be in the region of 300,000, camped in Martyrs’ Square, a short distance from the start line. Only empty tents now remain at that venue and this year competitors can look forward to a flatter, faster course around the city's boundaries.
Senbeta is tipped to better the race record of 2:17:04, although his fellow Ethiopian Abraham Yilma Belete, third a year ago, will offer a strong challenge. The pair will be wary of Kenyan rival David Kiplagat Kuino, the 2007 Bonn marathon champion (2:14:05) and his fellow countryman Michael Kipkorir Chelimo.
Ethiopians are forecast to dominate the women's race. Adanech Beyene Jemilu, who was third in Dubai last January (2:39:28) is the fastest of the field but will need to look out for compatriots Etaferaw Tarken Getahun, who was second in Brescia, Italy this April (2:48:38), and Meseret Legese Regasa.
Dave Martin – PA International – for the IAAF