Little was known about Cosmas Lagat when he lined up for the 2014 Zurich Marato de Sevilla. Two years on from his surprise victory there in a course record of 2:08:33 on his marathon debut, the Kenyan will return to the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race on 21 February.
No longer a teenager, Lagat has kept a relatively low profile since winning in Seville. But if anyone is able to produce a shock performance at this year’s race, then it will be him.
Lagat isn’t the fastest in this year’s field though. That accolade belongs to Ethiopia’s Berhanu Shiferaw, who ran 2:04:48 when finishing second in Dubai in 2013.
Moroccan veterans Adil Annai and Hassane Ahouchar, 2:07:43 and 2:08:47 performers respectively, are also in the field, along with Zimbabwean record-holder Cuthbert Nyasango.
The will also be a handful of marathon debutants in the race, including 2009 world junior cross-country bronze medallist Moses Kibet and fellow Ugandan Simon Ayeko.
The race will double up as the Spanish Championships and Olympic trials race, so there will be many domestic athletes looking to prove their form ahead of Rio.
Jesus Espana, the 2006 European 5000m champion, will be making his marathon debut, as will two-time European cross-country champion Alemayehu Bezabeh. They will be up against experienced marathon runners such as Rafael Dominguez and Jose Hernandez.
While Kenya has produced 12 of the past 17 men’s winners in Seville, only one Kenyan has triumphed in the women’s race.
Miriam Wangari will be looking to add to that tally next month. The 36-year-old is the only athlete in the field with a PB faster than 2:30, having set a best of 2:27:53 at last year’s Xiamen Marathon.
Spain-based Ethiopian Marta Tigabea will feel at home racing in Seville. She has only contested two marathons to date, her best of 2:31:54 coming on her debut in Porto in 2014.
Compatriot Zerife Boku, a past winner of the Karlsruhe and La Rochelle marathons, is also in the field along with Olympians Marily Dos Santos of Brazil and Maria McCambridge of Ireland.
Organisers for the IAAF