Kenyan runners Duncan Maiyo and Peninah Wanjiru will defend their titles at the Brighton Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (17).
Maiyo, now 30, ran the race of his life to claim the men’s crown on the town’s famous seafront 12 months ago, taking nearly two minutes from his personal best as he won in 2:10:15.
At the pre-event press conference on Friday, he exuded confidence and said that he will knock more than two minutes from that time when he takes on one of the toughest elite fields in the event’s seven-year history, and he has as a clear target William Chebor’s two-year-old course record of 2:09:25.
“I ran a PB last year and I’m in much better shape this time,” said Maiyo, whose 2015 Brighton victory was the first of his marathon career. “I think I will break 2:08. If it’s sunny weather and the wind is not too bad I can get the course record.
“I am very happy to be back in Brighton as the champion,” he added. “Training for this year’s race has gone very well, the course is great and there’s always a big crowd here.
“You can tell the people really like the athletes. They helped me a lot to win last year. I could hear them shouting ‘Duncan, move. Go, go, go.’ It was fantastic and this time it will be even louder because they know me.”
However, Maiyo conceded that it will be far from easy to defend his title.
“The field is so much stronger than last year, so I can’t even say I will be the winner,” he said. “That is the aim, of course, but these guys are not easy. I will try my best.”
Trying to claim Maiyo’s Brighton crown will be five fellow Kenyans and South Africa’s Olympic hopeful Xolisa Tyali.
The fastest man in the field is Raymond Chemungur, who ran 2:10:06 to finish eighth in last October’s Frankfurt Marathon and has won three of his six marathons.
Two other Kenyans should also be in the hunt: the in-form Edwin Kiptoo, who was eighth in the Toronto Marathon last October in his best time of 2:11:45; and Joel Kimutai who won the Great Birmingham Run half marathon in 2014 and was sixth on his marathon debut last year in 2:14:38.
Tyali could also clinch a place on the podium as he targets a time between 2:10:00 and 2:11:00, which could win him a place on South African’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games team.
The 26-year-old joined Hendrick Ramaala’s Johannesburg training group 18 months ago and believes the former New York Marathon champion’s coaching and experience has put him in the shape of his life.
“Qualifying for the Olympics is my dream,” said the 26-year-old. “Training has been going really well and I believe this is my turn now. Hendrick is a good athlete and he has does everything for us.”
A course record could also be on the cards in the women’s race where Maiyo’s compatriot and training partner, Penninah Wanjiru, defends her title against former Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion Grace Momanyi and two Ethiopians: the experienced Asnakech Mengistu and newcomer Halima Hussein.
Wanjiru ready for fast time
Wanjiru marked her marathon debut last year with an eye-catching victory in 2:34:25 and went on to win her second marathon in Malaga last December.
Like Maiyo, Wanjiru believes she’s in better shape this time and is aiming to go under 2:30:00.
“If there’s no rain and some sun, I am confident I can win again,” said the 31-year-old whose training partners include the world half marathon record holder, Florence Kiplagat.
“This year I’m in better shape and I’m sure I will run a PB, maybe 2:29 or 2:30,” she added. “But I have a challenge because the other girls are good too.”
Wanjriu pointed to Mengistu as her chief rival, and for good reason.
The 29-year-old is the fastest in the field with a PB of 2:25:50, has 15 marathons behind her, and is in good form having won last November’s Gaochun Marathon in China.
“I expect to win,” said the confident Mengistu. “But the conditions are probably not good enough for a best time.”
After two second places from her two marathons so far, Momanyi also has victory in mind.
Now fully recovered from a knee operation two years ago, the 34-year-old who trains in the same group as last year’s New York Marathon champion, Mary Keitany, believes she’s in shape to run 2:28 and is looking to break Eunica Kales’ women’s course record of 2:28:50, set in 2013.
“I have had two second places so I hope this time I will be first,” she said. “I feel relaxed and ready. I will try to improve my marathon time as well.”
With fine weather expected, Brighton Marathon founder Tim Hutchings also expects two fast races on the event’s flat course.
“We have world class runners coming back, including both champions, so I think they will run very fast,” said the two-time IAAF World Cross Country Championships silver medallist. “There should be two fantastic exciting races, and we hope to have a record field too.
Organisers for the IAAF