Flomena Chepchirchir after her commanding victory at the City-Pier-City Half Marathon in The Hague (Organisers) © Copyright
Preview Chongqing, China

Former champions take on newcomers in Chongqing

Two former winners of the Chongqing International Marathon will return to the Chinese city on Sunday (19) to face a field that includes some athletes who could make a big breakthrough at the IAAF Silver Label Road Race.

Kenya’s Michael Kiprop Tiony won the 2015 Chongqing Marathon in 2:13:34, four minutes shy of the PB he set in Xiamen in 2012. He returned to Chongqing last year in the hope of retaining his title, but finished seventh in 2:13:53.

Cosmas Kemboi, the 2012 Chongqing winner, also returns to the race this year. He set his PB of 2:10:33 when winning in the Chinese city with a course record five years ago, but his most recent outing was a 2:14:24 run in Ningbo last October, finishing five places behind Tiony.

Recent form suggests that the two former winners may not repeat their victory this weekend, especially when some of the other entrants look poised to spring a surprise.

With a best of 2:15:33, Eritrea’s Dawit Weldesilasie isn’t one of the fastest in the field. But he has only completed one marathon to date, and his 1:00:26 half marathon PB suggests he could be set to smash his marathon best.

Since his last marathon in 2014, Kenya’s Elijah Tirop Serem has focused on the half-marathon distance. He clocked a PB of 1:00:55 in 2015, so his marathon PB of 2:12:07 could be due for revision when he revisits the classic distance this weekend.

Evans Kipchirchir Sambu made his marathon debut in July last year, running 2:16:13 in the altitude of Iten. He went on to win the Taiyuan and Shenzen marathons, reducing his PB each time to 2:11:34 and 2:10:28. He will be hoping to maintain his winning momentum in Chongqing.

Fellow Kenyan Erick Leon Ndiema – a 1:00:45 half marathon performer – will be making his marathon debut on Sunday and should be in the mix if all goes well.

As well as being the fastest in the field, Sylvester Kimeli Teimet is also one of the most experienced marathon runners who will be in action on Sunday. His lifetime best of 2:06:49 dates back to his 2010 Seoul Marathon win, but more recently he finished a respectable fifth in Shenzen in 2:13:24 four months ago.

Afewerk Mesfin set his 2:09:49 PB on his debut at the distance in Dubai in 2013. He came close to that mark last year, though, with his 2:10:05 clocking in Dubai. Should he manage to reproduce that kind of performance on Sunday, he could threaten the course record of 2:10:33 set by Kemboi.

Like many of the key contenders in the men’s race, the women’s field also includes a couple of women who have dabbled with the 26.2-mile distance in the past without fully committing to it. Until now.

Diana Kipyokei emerged from relative obscurity last year to win the Jinjiang Half Marathon in December, followed one week later with a runner-up finish and PB of 1:08:38 at the Xiamen Half Marathon.

Her only marathon to date was a 2:51:17 victory at the Tangier Marathon, but Kipyokei is a much improved runner since then and so should run significantly faster on Sunday.

At 2:51:48, fellow Kenyan Nancy Chepngetich Kimaiyo has a similar PB from her debut in Singapore in December. A 1:13:54 half-marathon clocking earlier in the year suggests she’s capable of much better.

Flomena Chepchirchir is the fastest in the field, having clocked 2:23:00 to finish second at the 2013 Frankfurt Marathon. But her most recent run over the 26.2-mile distance was a 2:40:20 performance in Prague.

Anne Cheptanui Bererwe’s PB of 2:28:22 dates back to her second-place finish in Milan in 2010, but she came within a few minutes of that time in 2016 when winning the Hangzhou and Yangling marathons in 2:31:20 and 2:32:18 respectively.

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF