Course record assaults are on tap at the 31st Hangzhou Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (5).
Both the men’s and women’s course records were broken last year and organisers have assembled solid fields with the aim of continuing that record-breaking at what is considered to be among the most scenic marathons in China, whose course stretches alongside the famous West Lake and Qiantang River.
The men’s entry list includes four sub-2:10 runners with Ethiopia’s Azmeraw Bekele the only entrant who has this year run faster than the course record of 2:11:22, set by his countryman Bejigan Regasa Mndaye.
The 31-year-old Bekele achieved his career best of 2:07:12 with his fifth place finish at the 2014 Dubai Marathon. He returned to Dubai this year and clocked 2:10:22 to finish seventh before claiming his first marathon title in Taiyuan last month clocking 2:12:49.
Slyvester Teimet owns the fastest personal best in the field, 2:06:49 when winning the Seoul Marathon in 2010. During his 11-year-long career over the classic distance, the experienced Kenyan has also collected titles in Shanghai and Gyeongju. But he hasn’t dipped under 2:10 since 2013 and has a season’s best of 2:12:45 from his fifth place finish in Chongqing.
Samuel Theuri, also from Kenya, is another candidate for the win. The 33-year-old clocked 2:12:26 to finish sixth in Mumbai in January, three and a half minutes shy of his PB set at the Marrakech Marathon two years ago.
Ethiopia’s Andualem Belay, 25, is the other sub-2:10 runner, with a 2:09:59 to his credit from Dubai in 2015. He is also striving to find his best form this year with his best performance being a fourth place finish in Houston in 2:12:54.
Anne Cheptanui Bererwe of Kenya improved the women’s record to 2:31:21 last year, a mark that’s under serious threat on Sunday.
The 31-year-old Kenyan Loice Kiptoo is the most in-form woman in Hangzhou with a 2:28:39 PB to her credit this year from a third place finish in Daegu in April. Since her marathon debut in 2015, Kiptoo has remained steady. She managed to reach the podium in each of the four marathons she’s finished, including a 2:29:13 course record at the Porto Marathon last year.
Ayelu Abebe also arrived in Hangzhou with high spirits, boosted by her 2:29:17 victory at Wuxi Marathon in March when she improved her career best by nearly six minutes.
It will be the fourth race the 30-year-old Ethiopian has run in China in 2017 as she also clocked 2:44:06 to finish seventh in Lanzhou in June and third in 2:34:51 at the Taiyuan International Marathon last month.
Olha Kotovska of Ukraine is another woman to watch on Sunday. The 33-year-old Rio Olympian has a PB of 2:29:13 and clocked 2:30:18 to finish fifth in Daegu seven months ago.
It will also be unwise to overlook Emily Chemutai Ngetich, the fastest woman on paper with a 2:25:14 career best from her fourth place finish at the Frankfurt Marathon in 2014. However, the 33-year-old Kenyan has been sub-par this season, clocking 2:37:17 and 2:39:44 in her two 2017 races.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF