Kenya’s Victor Chumo will defend his title at the 44e edition of the Corrida Pedestre International de Houilles, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday (27).
But it won’t be a straight-forward task for Chumo as he will face a field of strong contenders in the Paris suburb.
Chumo was a surprising winner last year, crossing the line in a personal best of 28:04. Chumo’s last outing was a 5000m at the Kenyan World Championships Trials when finishing fifth in 13:53:67. This year he also ran 28:20 over 10km.
One of Chumo’s main rivals should be his compatriot Cornelius Kangogo. The 21-year-old won in Houilles in 2013, clocking a PB of 27:58. He placed fifth in Houilles last year and is currently in good form, having clocked 28:21 in Rennes two months ago.
Micah Kogo, another former winner, will also be in action. The 29-year-old Kenyan won three times in Houilles between 2006 and 2008 and finished runner-up in 2012 and 2013. His 27:01 10km PB makes him the fastest man in the field, but that mark was set six years ago.
The 2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist finished 10th at the Frankfurt Marathon in October in 2:10:24, but his best performance so far in 2015 was a 59:33 clocking at the Lisbon Half Marathon in March.
Haymanot Alewe is another candidate for victory. Although he doesn’t yet have much experience on the roads, he recently won the cross ‘Sud Ouest’ in Gujan-Mestras near Bordeaux in November ahead of the best French specialists such as Florian Carvalho.
Uganda’s Abdallah Kibet Mande and Kenya’s Elijah Tirop, who was the runner-up at the 2015 Nice Half Marathon in a PB of 1:00:55, could surprise in the same way that Chumo did last year.
French hopes rest with Yohan Durand, who finished eighth at the recent European Cross Country Championships. He will be expecting a sub-29-minute time.
European steeplechase champion Yoann Kowal recently went back to training after a late summer break and might be not in the same shape as he was in 2011 when he set his 29:01 PB in Houilles.
Ethiopia’s Mule Wasihum would have been a serious contender but he has been forced to withdraw due to family reasons.
Daunay leads French hopes
In the absence of last year’s winner Peris Chepchirchir, Linah Cheruto and European marathon champion Christelle Daunay appear to be the favourites for the women’s race.
Cheruto has improved her personal best to 32:08 in Prague in September. Daunay has bounced back since a big injury last January. She placed fifth at the New York Marathon in 2:26:57 in November and wound up 18th at the European Cross Country Championships two weeks ago.
Daunay, who has a PB of 31:48 from 2011, also ran 32:23 in Arras in August and is looking to become the first Frenchwoman to win in Houilles since Rakiya Maraoui in 2001.
Britain’s Sonia Thomas-Samuels should not be discounted either. She finished ninth at the Berlin marathon in 2:28:04 and has a 10km PB of 32:58.
The field will also include Kenya’s Nancy Kimaiyo, who won the 20km de Paris in 1:06:03 in October, Poland’s Katarzyna Kowalska, who set a marathon PB of 2:29:41 in Berlin, and Uganda’s Stella Chesang, who ran in 15:25:01 this year over 5000m.
Teenager Audrey Merle will also take to the start line on Sunday. Last year, she set a French junior record of 34:37 and more recently she won the world under-23 triathlon title.
The Corrida Pedestre Internationale de Houilles is the last major road race in France this year. The flat three-lap course lends itself to fast times. If the conditions are warmer than last year, the men’s course record of 27:47, set in 2010 by Imane Merga, could be in jeopardy.
Quentin Guillon for IAAF