More than 23,000 runners are expected to toe the start line of the 10th Anniversary edition of the JoongAng Seoul Marathon and 10 km race on Sunday 2 November.
The JoongAng Seoul Marathon is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
There are only 70 Korean athletes among them, with the rest coming from around the world. Created to honour the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games, the Marathon has always strived at achieving high running standards. The current men’s course record was set in 2006 by Kenyan Jason Mbote whose 2:08:13 knocked 14 seconds from the previous mark set by his countryman William Kiplagat in 2005 (2:08:27). The women’s field is traditionally dominated by strong Korean runners, as international women elite runners are not invited. The current course record of 2:29:32 was set last year by Korean Eun-Jung Lee.
The men’s elite field of 19 runners hailing from six countries - Kenya, Morocco, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Australia and Japan – will square of in a tight competition for the prize purse approaching US $200,000 on a slightly hilly course with a start and finish in Jamsil Main Stadium.
Eight runners from Kenya, led by two pacemakers, are expected to set the tone. The main contenders are the course record holder, 31-year-old Jason Mbote, and 30-year old Kiprotich Kenei.
Mbote has shown consistent improvement since 2006. He was sixth at the Amsterdam Marathon in 2007 finishing sixth with 2:07:51, and earlier this year was second at the Seoul International Marathon, clocking 2:07:37, which is his personal best. He was fourth at the Zwolle Half Marathon in June in 1:02:33 and was the third in Groesbeek 10 km race in 28:28.
Kenei set his personal best of 2:07:42 at the Hamburg marathon in 2007 placing third, and won the Xiamen Marathon last January in 2:09:49.
Another Kenyan runner challenging for the top prizes is 30-year-old Paul Biwott (PB 2:08:17, Paris Marathon 2005). This year he completed Prague Half Marathon in March, clocking 1:02:59 for fourth, and the Vienna City Marathon in April, taking third in 2:08:53.
Elias Kemboi Chelimo, 24 (PB 2:09:36, Rome 2007), was runner-up to Kenei in Xiamen, crossing the line in 2:09:50.
Nicholas Chelimo, 25, set his PB of 2:09:42 at the JoongAng Seoul Marathon in 2007 finishing fifth, and is returning after a fifth place finish at the Enschede Marathon last spring where he clocked 2:12:29.
Kenyans Hosea Kogo and Gilbert Kirwa are the designated pacemakers.
This impressive Kenyan contingent can experience tangible competition from three young, but fast progressing Ethiopian runners. Tessema Absher, a 22-year-old Addis-Ababa native, set two personal bests this year: 2:08:26, finishing fourth in Hamburg, and 1:02:34 placing eighth at the Half Marathon of Portugal in Lisbon in September.
Solomon Molla, 21, also set two PBs this year: he was second at the Ottawa Marathon clocking 2:11:05 and third at the Rabat Half Marathon with 1:02:40. 21-year-old Chala Lemi, also contested the Ottawa Marathon this year setting a PB 2:13:02.
A pair of Moroccans will also look for a piece of a prize purse. Ahmed Baday (PB 2:10:59) and Ridouane Harroufi (PB 2:12:36) set their PBs at this years Hamburg Marathon while the latter tuned up with a 1:01:57 runner-up finish over the half marathon distance in San Jose, California earlier this month.
Others to watch include Seoul native Young-Joon Ji (PB 2:08:43), an Athens Olympian who clocked 2:15:07 at this year’s Seoul International Marathon in 2:15:07 and 2:16:20 at last year’s JoonAng Seoul Marathon; and Andrea Silvini (PB 2:14:56) of Tanzania, who completed this year Xiamen Marathon in 2:15:46.
In the absence of last year’s winner and course record holder, Korea’s Eun-Jung Lee, who finished 25th in the Beijing Olympic Marathon, the main competition is expected between Korean athletes Hae-Jin Bae (PB 2:32:56), runner up in last year’s race in 2:37:43; Beijing Olympian Sung-Young Lee, who set personal best 2:32:17 this year at the Seoul International Marathon; and Kyung-Hee Lim (PB 2:34:08), who competed at the Osaka World Championships.
Yelena Kurdyumova and Sergey Porada for the IAAF