William Chebon Chebor is back to defend his title at the New Taipei City Wan Jin Shi Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (19).
The 34-year-old Kenyan sliced five seconds from the course record with his 2:13:05 run one year ago to nab his fifth career marathon victory.
Chebor has a 2:08:21 lifetime best from the 2011 Turin Marathon and returns to the island just five weeks after a third-place finish at the Kaohsiung Marathon on 12 February where he clocked 2:16:08. He also dipped under 2:10 at the 2014 Brighton Marathon, winning there in 2:09:25.
Among those with the most solid credentials of unseating him is 34-year-old Kenyan Samson Barmao, who has run faster than 2:10 half a dozen times, most recently at the 2013 Rome Marathon where he finished sixth in 2:09:47. His lifetime best of 2:08:52 was also set in Rome, one year earlier, when he finished runner-up.
Behind the pair, others to watch include Ethiopians Tsegaye Debele Belda and Sisay Haile Yayi who bring sub-2:11 credentials to the start. Khamis Bakari of Morocco and compatriot Adelkabir Saji, with 2:11:54 and 2:13:11 lifetime bests, could also figure in the podium hunt.
Organisers have also assembled a solid field of rising stars in the women's race ready to tackle the challenges of Taipei City's somewhat hilly course.
Taking on the 'woman to beat' role is Ethiopian Bizunesh Urgesa.
The 2008 world U20 3000m bronze medallist has a 2:30:00 personal best with victories at the 2009 Istanbul and 2010 Mumbai marathons to her credit.
She'll face compatriot Tseha Gebre Getiso, who has a 2:30:43 lifetime best, and Bahraini Gladys Jerotich Kibiwot, who has clocked 2:23:06.
Two European runners to watch include Deborah Toniolo who has represented Italy at three European Championships. The 39-year-old has a 2:28:31 career best from 2006, and recently tuned up for Taipei City with a 1:16:59 run at a half marathon in Naples in early February.
Vaida Zuisinaite of Lithuania could also mount a challenge. The 29-year-old has a 2:32:50 personal best from last year when she finished fourth in Hannover. She ran a half marathon personal best of 1:15:58 in last January.
Bob Ramsak and organisers for the IAAF