Agnes Tirop takes the victory at the 2018 TCS World 10k in Bengaluru (Organisers) © Copyright
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Weekend road preview: course records expected in Bengaluru, Riga and Guangzhou

The TCS World 10K Bengaluru on Sunday (May 19) will bring together two of the world’s leading distance runners who will be using the IAAF Gold Label road race as a vital part of their preparations for the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.

Defending champion Agnes Tirop took the 10,000m bronze medal at 2017 World Championships and the Kenyan wants to move further up the podium in Doha in just under five months’ time.

“I enjoy running on the roads and especially in Bengaluru (where she set a course record of 31:19 last year) but my focus is still on the track,” said Tirop, who will be making her 2019 racing debut on Sunday. “I’m coming here in good shape, but I can’t say how fast I am going to run.”

Bahrain’s world marathon champion Rose Chelimo has already had a relatively busy year with four high quality races. Her most recent outing was a seventh-place finish at the Gifu Half Marathon in Japan last month.

“Of course, I hope to defend my title in Doha, everything is aiming to that and I’m not too worried about the fact that the marathon there will be hot,” she said. “However, I have been preparing specially for this race for the last two weeks and I have prepared well.”

Ethiopia’s two-time world U20 cross-country champion Letsenbet Gidey will be making her 10km road debut. The 21-year-old took the bronze medal at the recent World Cross Country Championships and earlier this month won the Ethiopian 10,000m title in 32:10.2 at altitude.

Attention in the men’s race has been focused on the seven men who have PBs faster than the Bengaluru course record of 27:44 set by Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor in 2014.

Olympic silver medallist Paul Tanui has won 10,000m bronze medals at the past three World Championships but has generally shied away from running over the same distance on the roads.

“My focus is still on the track and I want to qualify for the World Championships again, but I am looking forward to this race and battling for a top position here,” said Tanui, whose 10km road PB is 28:47.

The men’s elite field has been boosted by the recent addition of Kenya’s 21-year-old Mathew Kimeli, who can boast of a 10km best of 27:11.


Prokopcuka returns to Riga

Latvia’s leading distance runner Jelena Prokopcuka will contest her first marathon since giving birth to her second child when she lines up for the Tet Riga Marathon on Sunday (19).

The two-time New York City Marathon champion won the half marathon in Riga five times in succession between 2012 and 2016 but has never raced the 26.2-mile event in the Latvian capital. Now 42, Prokopcuka will be aiming to produce a performance that would qualify her for the next two major outdoor global championships.

A top-10 finish or a time inside 2:37 would qualify her for the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019. A top-five finish or a time inside 2:29:30 would qualify her for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

“It is a great honour for me to return to the international marathon circuit by running my home course in Latvia,” said Prokopcuka, whose last marathon was a 12th-place finish at the 2016 Olympic Games in 2:29:32. “It’s every athlete’s dream: running in a world-class marathon with the best runners while at the same time receiving the undivided support of the fans.”

Ethiopian duo Debele Beyene and Worknesh Alemu will be among the leading contenders. Beyene set her PB of 2:25:28 in Hamburg last year and came close to it in Mumbai in January with 2:26:39. Alemu won in Mumbai, clocking a PB of 2:25:45.

Kenya’s 2018 Sydney Marathon champion Mercy Jerotich Kibarus and two-time Warsaw Marathon winner Nastassia Ivanova of Belarus are also in the field.

Both course records – 2:28:22 for women and 2:11:00 for men – look vulnerable.

Ethiopia’s Belay Asefa heads to Riga in good form, following a PB of 2:06:39 to finish second in Seville in February. Asefa Tefera has also set a recent lifetime best, running 2:07:56 to finish second at the Lake Biwa Marathon.

Compatriot Deribe Robi has the fastest PB of the men’s field, having clocked 2:05:58 back in 2015, but the 28-year-old finished three places behind Tefera at the recent Lake Biwa Marathon in 2:08:11.

Kenya’s Duncan Koech – winner of the 2013 Riga Marathon and third-place finisher in 2014, 2015 and 2017 – will be racing in the Latvian capital for the fifth time.


Course records under threat in Guangzhou

Organisers of the Happy 10K Guangzhou have assembled a strong field aiming to break both of the course records of the IAAF Bronze Label road race on Sunday (19).

Four sub-28-minute runners will toe the line in the men’s race. With a personal best of 27:40 set in Prague last year, 24-year-old Benard Kibet Lagat is the fastest man on paper. The Kenyan, who set a 15km PB of 43:47 in Le Puy-en-Velay two weeks ago, will target the Guangzhou course record of 29:07 set last year.

Bahrain’s Dawit Fikadu arrives in Guangzhou in high spirits after winning the Asian 10,000m title last month in 28:26.30. A 27:56 10km performer on the roads, he also improved his half marathon PB to 1:00:01 in March.

Timothy Kiplagat only debuted over 10km in 2018 but already has a career best of 27:52.

Kenya’s 2015 world U18 steeplechase silver medallist Sandrafelis Chebet Tuei leads the women’s field. The 21-year-old set her 10km PB of 30:57 in Valencia last year, which is nearly four minutes faster than the Guangzhou course record of 34:40 set by Emily Arusio last year.

Buzunesh Getachew of Ethiopia could be Tuei’s biggest threat. The 22-year-old set her PB of 31:21 three years ago in Casablanca and came close to that mark in March when she clocked 31:43 to win in Taroudant.

Tigist Teshome, also from Ethiopia, has shown solid form so far this year. She improved her half marathon PB to 1:10:08 to win in Madrid last month and bettered her marathon PB by 40 seconds to 2:29:17 in Barcelona in March.

Vincent Wu for the IAAF


Gachaga targets hat-trick in Cape Town

Kenya’s Morris Gachaga, winner of the past two editions of the FNB Cape Town 12 ONERUN, will return to the IAAF Bronze Label road race on Sunday (19) seeking his third consecutive victory.

His winning time of 33:27 in 2017 is the fastest time on record for the rarely-run 12km distance, but if his recent performances are anything to go by, the 24-year-old looks to be in shape to break his own course record.

He started the year by clocking a PB of 59:22 at the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon and followed it with a 2:07:46 marathon debut in Paris.

He’ll face five men who have bettered 28 minutes for 10km: Kenya’s Rhonzai Kilimo, Moses Koech, John Langat, Ethiopia’s Betesfa Getahun and South African record-holder Stephen Mokoka.

“I’m in good shape, really good shape,” said Mokoka. “Elroy (Gelant) is also running well. I know I am in low 33 (minute) shape (for 12km). And with the guys coming out, I can guarantee it will be a fast race.”

Uganda’s Stella Chesang leads the women’s field. She finished second last year as the race came just one month after she won the Commonwealth 10,000m title. This time she arrives in the South African city on fresh legs and is aiming for the top step of the podium.

“Since the World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus in March, I have been preparing for this race,” said Chesang. “I want to go one better than 2018, and that means a win.”

Ethiopia’s Degitu Azimarew and Bahrain’s Desi Jesi Mokonin look to be her toughest opponents. Azimarew set a PB of 1:06:07 at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon earlier this year, while Mokonin was seventh at the 2018 World Half Marathon Championships in a PB of 1:08:10.

Britain’s Tish Jones, winner in 2017, returns to Cape Town following a PB of 2:31:11 at the recent London Marathon, while Irvette van Zyl and Kesa Molotsane lead the South African charge.


Danish all-comers’ records the aim at Copenhagen Marathon

Organisers of the Telenor Copenhagen Marathon on Sunday (19) have assembled their strongest ever fields to mark their first year as an IAAF Bronze Label road race.

“We are going for the fastest marathon times ever on Danish soil,” says Henrik Paulsen, sports director at the organising athletics club, Sparta.

The Danish all-comers’ records are 2:10:37 for men and 2:30:51 for women. The latter appears the most likely record to fall as four women in the field have PBs faster than that mark.

Sylvia Kiberenge went after the course record last year but faded in the second half. With a best of 2:29:09 and having raced on the roads of Copenhagen multiple times, the Denmark-based Kenyan has speed and experience on her side.

Ethiopian duo Bekelu Beji Geletu and Aberu Ayana Mulisa arrive in Copenhagen in top form. Geletu set a PB of 2:28:21 when finishing second in Wuxi earlier this year, while Mulisa clocked a PB of 2:28:49 in Seville.

William Morwabe smashed his PB by almost five minutes when winning in the Danish capital last year, clocking 2:11:15. He’ll face four strong Kenyan compatriots this time as he seeks to defend his title.

Although his PB of 2:09:06 was set five years ago, Jackson Kibet Limo is still highly competitive, winning the 2017 Porto Marathon in 2:11:34 and finishing fourth there last year in 2:12:19.

Abraham Kasongwor and Alex Saekwo both have PBs quicker than 2:11 and have shown good consistency in their recent marathons. Kenya’s 2011 world cross-country bronze medallist Vincent Chepkok, who holds a 5000m PB of 12:51.45, adds further quality to the field.