Ethiopia’s Sisay Jisa Mekonnen and Georgina Rono from Kenya lead their respective fields at the The Zurich Barcelona Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (12).
Race organisers have assembled an interesting line-up, with the men’s field headed by Mekonnen, who holds a 2:06:27 lifetime best set at the 2012 Paris Marathon. The 34-year-old hasn’t come close of that performance since but he has posted a solid 2:08:09 clocking for fourth last January in Dubai. The big question mark now is whether he has fully recovered from that effort made barely seven weeks ago.
Jisa’s fiercest opponent should be Kenya’s Hillary Kipchumba as the 24-year-old set a massive career best of 2:08:23 – his first outing under 2:10 - at his last appearance in Gongju last October. He will be joined by fellow Kenyan Peter Kiptoo Kiplagat, the only other sub-2:10 performer (2:09:43) on show on Sunday.
There will be a triumvirate of Kenyans who have not excelled thus far but Evans Biwott, winner of the Eldoret marathon last November, Edwin Kimwetich Tarus, runner-up on that occasion and Justus Kiprotich, who ran third, might also play a key role running at sea level in Barcelona.
Ethiopia’s Abdi Fufa Nigassa (PB of 2:11:22) and the Kenyan tandem of Samwel Kenya’s Kalalei (2:11:47) and Matew Kemboi (2:12:00) will also look for a top-five spot while the strongest European will be Ukraine’s Igor Olefirenko, holder of a 2:12:04 career best.
A group of quality pacemakers will have the task of bringing the lead group to the 32th kilometer, the scheduled split time by the half Marathon point being 1:03:30 to have a chances of breaking Kenya’s Jackson Kipkoech Kotut’s 2:07:30 course record set in 2010.
Women’s race - Kenyans at the double?
On paper, the women's course record of 2:26:52 set by Emily Chepkomi Samoei of Kenya in 2012 is a realistic target.
Georgina Rono is the quickest woman in contention by far thanks to her 2:21:39 effort from the 2012 Frankfurt Marathon. Her last appearance came last January when she had to settle for a modest 2:38:14 at the Doha Marathon but the 33-year-old should be eager to bounce back in Barcelona from that sub-par outcome. Her stiffest rival should be fellow Kenyan Emily Chemutai Ngetich, a 2:25:14 performer in Frankfurt 2014 although she could not go better than 2:33:57 in Kosice last October.
Watch out too for Ethiopia’s Helen Bekele, a 2:29:21 specialist and China’s Jingxia Zhang (2:29:40) while Kenya’s Recho Kosgei, who came second at the Nairobi marathon last October in 2:35:11, should also be a factor on Sunday. The Ethiopian trio of Aberash Robi, Tsegaye Melesech and Meseret Alemu complete the African contingent that will chase Chepkomi's course record.
Held for the first time in 1977, the marathon route passes several iconic landmarks, including ‘La Sagrada Familia’, ‘el Arco del Triunfo’ and ‘Camp Nou’. Weather forecasters predict a partly cloudy day with little chance of rain and temperatures between 11-13º C at the time of the event.
Entries have topped 20,000 again this year, with runners expected from no fewer than 89 countries.
25 years after their respective successes, organisers will pay tribute to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics Marathon medallists: Korea’s Hwang Young-Cho (gold medallist then), Japan’s Koichi Moroshita (silver) and Germany’s Stephan Freigang (bronze) on the men’s side and Russia’s Valentina Yegorova (gold), Japan’s Yuko Arimori (silver) and New Zealand’s Lorraine Moller (bronze) among the women.
The six of them gathered on Thursday at Barcelona’s Olympic stadium and they all went up to the original podium again. The medallists expressed their gratitude to the organisers for having reunited them on the Olympic silver jubilee and one, Freigang, will even take part in the competition on Sunday at the age of 49.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF