Kenyan distance runner Wesley Korir (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Beirut, Lebanon

Korir headlines elite fields at Beirut Marathon

Kenya’s Wesley Korir will be the star attraction at the 16th edition of the BLOM Bank Beirut Marathon on 11 November, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.

Korir, a winner of the Boston Marathon in 2012, has not raced since April 2017 but after taking time out from his political career, the 35-year-old is planning to get back to winning ways at next month’s race in the Lebanese capital.

“Everything is going well, I’m trying to get in shape after politics and run full-time again,” said Korir. “Getting a win in Beirut will give me a boost for me as I get back to the top level.”

To succeed he will have to be at his best, with Ethiopia’s Bazu Worku, who has a best of 2:05:25 and was a winner at the Houston Marathon this year, also in the field.

Kenyans Ezekial Omullo and Andrew Ben Kimutai, who have both run below 2:09, are also sure to feature. Omullo is a three-time winner of the Warsaw Marathon, his most dominant win coming in 2016 when he set his current PB of 2:08:55, while in April this year he cruised to victory at the same race in 2:11:17. Kimutai is also a formidable performer, the 29-year-old finishing third at the Seville Marathon earlier this year where he set his current PB of 2:08:32.

There will also be a duo of exciting prospects in Uganda’s Felix Chemonges and Morocco’s Mohamed Ahmami, who bring impressive pedigree at the shorter distances. An interesting debutant at the distance is Kenya’s Kalipus Lomwai, who was a pacemaker at the race last year but carries a classy half marathon best of 1:01:22, which he ran to win in Hamburg in July.

Others of note include Bahrain’s Benson Seurei, who brings the best track pedigree to this test of endurance, the 34-year-old boasting an 800m personal best of 1:45.67. Since moving to the marathon he has proved himself a capable performer, finishing seventh in Barcelona earlier this year in 2:11:27.

The women’s race is set to be a wide-open contest with an international field spanning seven different nationalities. Though Kenya and Ethiopia are well represented it will come as no surprise if the title goes to one of their East African rivals, with Eritrea’s Nazret Weldu set to make her debut at the distance.

Earlier this year she finished 26th in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia in 1:11:45 and if she carries that form to the full marathon she will be a force to be reckoned with.

Kenyans Ednah Mukwana and Rebecca Korir are also sure to feature. Mukwana has a best of 2:30:24 which she ran to take victory at the Zhengzhou Marathon earlier this year, while Korir has a best of 2:29:16, which she ran to finish third at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2016.

Another who will be in contention is Lithuania’s Raza Drazdauskaite, a three-time Olympian who clocked 2:29:29 to finish 26th at the London Games in 2012. Belarus’s Sviatlana Kudzelich comes in with impressive form at the shorter distances. The 31-year-old was a European indoor silver medallist over 3000m in 2015 and earlier this year she set her half marathon personal best of 1:11:45 in Prague.

Ethiopia will have a trio of strong contenders in the form of Almensh Herpha, Medina Deme Armino and Nigist Muluneh Desta. Herpa took victory at the Lagos City Marathon on her most recent outing over this distance, while the Ethiopian has previous form at the BLOM Bank Beirut Marathon, finishing third in 2016.

Armino has been enjoying a breakthrough year after lowering her PB to 2:33:17 when taking victory at the Treviso Marathon, while Desta lowered her best to 2:36:54 when finishing third at the Shenzhen Marathon last December.

Another potential champion is Kazakhstan’s Gulzhanat Zhanatbek, who finished 14th in the marathon at the Asian Games in Jakarta in August.

There will also be a strong local contingent, with Nisrine Njeim, Nadine Kalot and Hiba Traboulsi hoping to make an impact against their international rivals. Fellow Lebanese elite athletes Chirine Njeim, Nadia Dagher and Zainab Bazzi will tackle the half marathon, where Njeim will be targeting the Lebanese record.

Athletes will compete for a first prize of US $15,000 with additional time bonuses on offer. There will also be substantial prize money and time bonuses available for the first Lebanese finishers, the leading para athletes and the fastest athletes in the half marathons, races which will also take place on November 11.

This year’s event will also incorporate the 50th World Military Marathon Championship, which will feature 98 runners from almost 20 countries. The BLOM Bank Beirut Marathon will also be the first leg of the Asia Premier Marathons, which is now in its second season.

All races will start at the picturesque Beirut Waterfront on General Wissam El Hassan Avenue and cross two parallel finish lines at the historic Martyrs’ Square in downtown Beirut.

Organisers for the IAAF