The 34th Beijing International Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, will most likely have new winners in both men’s and women’s races on Sunday (19).
Most of the elite runners are making their Beijing Marathon debut with the fastest runner in the men’s race being 27-year-old Ethiopian Girmay Birhanu. His 2:05:49 for third place in this year’s Dubai Marathon makes him the fastest in the field, but he is yet to win a marathon, having finished in second place four times, in Amsterdam, Rome and Prague in 2013 and in Ljubljana in 2012.
With Birhanu the only athlete in the field having run faster than 2:10 this year, the strongest competition might come from his countryman Sisay Jisa. The 31-year-old ran his best time of 2:06:27 in Paris in 2012 and is the 2013 Guangzhou Marathon winner. His season’s best of 2:11:20 was set in Rome in March.
Another Ethiopian, 23-year-old Debele Tolossa, has a PB of 2:07:41 set in Houston in 2012, but his season’s best is only 2:18:43 from Milan in April.
Morocco’s 39-year-old Rachid Kisri is one of the few runners with previous Beijing experience. Kisri, who ran his PB of 2:06:48 in Paris in 2009, was fourth here twice in a row in 2008 (2:11:31) and 2009 (2:09:36).
Another Ethiopian looking for the win this time is Abebe Degefa. The 30-year-old was fourth in last year’s Beijing Marathon in 2:08:46, which is also his personal best.
Another contender is Kenyan Solomon Bushendich, who has a couple of Chinese races under his belt, but is starting for the first time in Beijing. The 30-year-old ran a PB of 2:08:41 in Kosice in 2010, but has a couple of decent races in Seville (2:10:13) and Xiamen (2:10:18) last year and will be running his first marathon of the season here.
Countryman Samwel Maswai ran a 2:10:18 in Berlin three weeks ago and recorded his PB of 2:08:52 in the same city in 2013.
Former winner Jia faces tough Ethiopian challenge
There is one former winner in the women’s race. 25-year-old Jia Chaofeng of China secured her first ever marathon victory at the 2012 edition of this race, clocking a PB of 2:27:40. She hasn’t contested a marathon this year, but recently finished fifth in the 10,000m at the Asian Games.
The fastest runner in the field is Ethiopian Yeshi Esayias, whose season’s best is exactly the same time as Jia’s PB, 2:27:40, clocked when finishing 12th in Boston. The 28-year-old has once before appeared in Beijing, finishing second in 2011 in 2:29:29, and has a PB of 2:24:06 from Frankfurt last year.
Fellow Ethiopian Fatuma Sado is the second-fastest in the field with a 2:25:39 PB set two years ago in Los Angeles. She won the 2013 Xiamen Marathon in 2:27:35, but has also raced just once in 2014, at the Yellow River Marathon in Dongying, where she ran 2:38:04 in May.
Karolina Jarzynska of Poland ran her personal best of 2:26:31 in Osaka in January and then won the Lodz Marathon in April in 2:28:12. She has also shown good speed on the track this year, clocking 15:31.97 for 5000m and 32:03.57 over 10,000m. Having won the past two editions of the Lodz Marathon, Jarzynska will be looking for her first marathon victory outside of Poland.
The women’s field has one more notable Ethiopian runner. 24-year-old Meseret Kitata made her marathon debut earlier this year, winning in Marrakech in 2:31:08.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF