Kasime Adilo Roba (1) of Ethiopia en route to his victory at the Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon (H. Emre Durmus) © Copyright
Preview Istanbul, Turkey

Defending champion Roba returns to Istanbul aiming for third title in a row - PREVIEW

 2009 winners Kasime Adilo Roba, 31 and Bizunesh Urgesa, 21, both of Ethiopia are returning to defend their titles at Sunday’s 32nd Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon (17).

Urgesa will run in the company of her compatriot Ashu Kasim, 2009 runner-up, and third place winner Svetlana Demidenko-Semova from Russia. The winner of the 2010 World Cross Country Championships Emily Chebet from Kenya will run in the 15km race.

The Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.

The overall size of the field has beaten the race record with 1977 registered for the marathon, 3828 for 15km race and 89,992 for 8km Fun Run. The total number of countries is also a record of 84, compared with 71 in 2009.

The weather seems consistent in making things harder for competitors who still remember rain and warm temperatures during the marathon in previous years. This year there are chances of rain and thunderstorms on Sunday with 18C at the start and warming up to 20 by noon. 

The marathon elite field of 22 men and 13 women contest the same prize purse as in the previous year – US$1,000,000. This includes $150,000 for any World records and prizes for rankings. The winners in the men’s and women’s categories will each get $50,000, and the 15 km winners will receive $4000 each.

Course records were set by Kenya’s David Charuiyot – 2:11:00 in 2007, and twice by Russian runner Madina Biktagirova – 2:28:21 in 2006 which was almost 6 minutes better than her previous 2005 record.

This is going to be the second year running on the new course which enhances the scenic and historical image of the event, with the start in the ancient part of Istanbul. The marathon and 15km races both start on the Asian side, cross the Bosphorus and Golden Horn Bridges, pass under the Aqueduct and follow to the Marmara Sea beach, to the finish line on the European side at the Hippodrome, one of the oldest race tracks in the world, situated in the historical district - Sultanahmet, famous for its ancient monuments and mosques.

MEN’s elite race

New course records, if the weather assists, are expected. Defending champion, 31-year-old Kasime Adilo Roba (PB 2:10:20 at Toronto 2007) from Ethiopia is returning with the focus on improving his 2:11:16 which was his winning time in the 2008 Istanbul Marathon, achieved in heavy rain and gusty winds throughout the race. If Roba wins he will be the second athlete in the history of the men's race to win this marathon three years in a row after another Ethiopian runner Moges Taye (1997-1999).

The traditionally large and strong field of Ethiopian athletes also includes 24-year-old Assefa Girma with PB 2:09:58 set in Berlin in 2009, Shume Hailu, 23, (2:11:36 PB) who clocked 2:11:48 in the 2010 Rome Marathon (5th place), and Gebo Burka, 23, (PB 2:10:18), who finished in 2:12:46 in this year’s Ottawa race.

The Kenyan contingent is marked out by Vincent Kiplagat, 26, who has a PB of 2:09:22 which placed him 6th in Houston Marathon this year, and Koech Hillary Kipkering, 37, whose 2:14:17 PB has stood since the 2006 Istanbul race.

Also look out for Sergey Rubin, 25, 2009 Russian champion (PB 2:11:48).

A group of six elite runners from Turkey includes Bekir Karayel, 28 (2:17:03 PB Istanbul 2006) and 22-year old debutant Erkan Kus.

The pack will be lead by four pacemakers from Ethiopia: Jaylan Ahimed Oge, Deribe Robi Melka, Hiko Dube Beriso and Gela Hailu Seifu.

WOMEN’s elite race

The women’s field is likely to be dominated by runners from Ethiopia who are led by defending champion Bizunesh Urgesa, 21, who has a 2:31 PB set in Mumbai this year and half marathon PB of 1:11:03 established in the  Paris Marathon 2010. There is also last year’s runner-up Ashu Kasim, 26, who debuted at the 2009 Paris Marathon with a 2:25:49 PB (4th place) and completed in this year’s Prague Marathon in 2:29:54. A third notable is Amane Gobena, 28, who has a PB of 2:24:13 from the 2010 Seoul Marathon, who also has a quick 1:08:16 PB from in Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in 2009. Alemitu Abera, 24, is another fast Ethiopian in the field (PB 2:31:01 in Houston Marathon 2010). 

Also challenging for honours will be three Russian runners Svetlana Demidenko-Semova, 34 (PB 2:29:56), Galina Yegorova, 27 (PB 2:35:17 at 2010 Russian Nat’l Championships in Moscow), and Nadezda Trilinskaya (PB 2:36:55 in Ljubljana 2009).

The field of six Turkish elite runners includes 32-year-old Mehtap Sizmaz, who was 3rd overall and the top Turkish athlete at the 2008 Istanbul Marathon and the winner of the 2009 Madrid Marathon  in 2:32:04. Also running for the hosts is Beijing Olympian Bahar Dogan (2:37:12 PB).

Yelena Kurdyumova and Sergey Porada for the IAAF