Vincent Kiplagat win the 2010 Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon (organisers) © Copyright
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Defending champions and record holders Kiplagat and Kasim return to Istanbul – PREVIEW

Istanbul, TurkeyCourse record holders Vincent Kiplagat from Kenya and Ashu Kasim from Ethiopia are returning to defend their titles at 33rd Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon on Sunday (16).


Organisers have attracted a strong elite field of 16 Ethiopians and five Kenyans to his IAAF Silver Label Road Race, several of whom have season bests faster than Istanbul’s current course records. If the weather cooperates the targets will be Kiplagat’s 2:10:39 and Kasim’s 2:27:25 both set last year.


Kasim will be defending her title in the company of four compatriots: Businesh Urgesa, Alemitu Abera, Fatuma Sado Dergo, and Tsega Gelaw.


Kiplagat is also focused on defending his title and improving his own course record, and will run together with four countrymen: Abraham Kiprotich, John Kipkorir Mutai, David Rutoh and William Kiplagat.


Two years ago the finish area was moved to the ancient part of Istanbul to enhance the scenic and historical image of the event. As before, it connects two continents, Europe and Asia. The Marathon, 15Km, and 8Km races both start on the Asian side, cross the Bosporus and Golden Horn Bridges, pass under the Aqueduct and follow 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 of Sultanahmet, famous for its ancient monuments and mosques.


Men’s race -


Among 10 runners from Ethiopia is Tarku Jufar, 27 (PB 2:08:10 in Hamburg Marathon 2008) with a seasonal best of 2:10:08 from the Mumbai Marathon. Haile Haja, 25, has a 2:09:20 PB, set at the Daegu Marathon. Kasime Adilo Roba, 32, (PB 2:10:20, Toronto Marathon 2007), is familiar with Istanbul, taking victories here in 2008 and 2009 in heavy rain and wind.  Another Ethiopian runner Dereje Yadete, 28, is also well acquainted with the race course, having finished second in 2010. He set his new personal best 2:10:26 at the Rome Marathon earlier this year. Other contestants from Ethiopia are 27-year old Tsegay Gebresselassie (PB 2:09:44 Eindhoven Marathon 2009), and Marathon debutant Workihne Testa, also 27, who finished third with 45:08 in 15 km Race at the 2010 Istanbul Marathon weekend.


Their rivals on the Kenyan side include defending champion Kiplagat (PB 2:09:22 at Houston Marathon 2010) with a 2:10:56 season’s best at the Hannover Marathon; John Kipkorir Mutai, who finished sixth with personal best best 2:11:08 at the Tiberias Marathon 2011; 25-year old David Rutoh, PB 2:08:21 at Paris Marathon 2003, and seasonal best 2:17:09 at Pittsburg Marathon; 39-year old William Kiplagat (PB 2:06:50 at Amsterdam Marathon 1999) who ran 2:13:21 in Shanghai Marathon 2010 and 2:07:05 in the 2009 Frankfurt Marathon; and Marathon debutant Abraham Kiprotich, 26, having a 1:03:17 PB from the Boulogne-Billancourt Half Marathon in 2010 and 28:39 over 10Km in Lille 2009.


Others who can interfere in the Ethiopia versus Kenya contest include: France-based Patrick Tambwe, whose 2:08:55 PB was set at the Mont-Saint-Michael Marathon 2004 and who has a seasonal best 2:10:09 from the Tiberias Marathon; and Abderrahim El Asri from Morocco, who has a 1:02:21 PB from the 2010 Remich Half Marathon. Others to watch are Ruben Indingo from Namibia (PB 2:12:38 from Paris Marathon and seasonal best 2:17:43 from Pittsburgh), and Turkish runners Bekir Karayel (PB 2:16:40 in Istanbul Marathon 2010), and Abdil Ceylan (PB 2:16:12, Istanbul Marathon 2007) along with 21-year old debutant Medeni Demir.\


The pack will be led by 4 pacemakers: Ethiopians Tadesse Mekonnen Tullu, Birhanu Gedefa, Jeylan Ahimed and Kedir Namo.


Women’s race –


The women’s race will be dominated by Ethiopian runners which are likely to be led by defending champion and course record holder Kasim, who has a PB of 2:25:49 from Paris 2009 and a seasonal best of 2:27:47 from Houston. Her compatriots and rivals will be 22-year-old Businesh Urgesa, (PB 2:31:09, Mumbai 2010) winner of this race in 2009 with a seasonal best of 2:32:28 from Mumbai; and Alemitu Abera, 25, last year’s runner-up here who set her 2:26:33 PB and season’s best in the Daegu Marathon.


Other notable Ethiopian runners are 20-year old Fatuma Sado Dergo who set a 2:28:30 PB at Hamburg 2011; Goitetom Haftu, 24, whose 2:26:21 PB was set this year in Rome; and Tsega Gelaw, 21, whose 2:29:35 PB came at the 2011 Zhengzhou Marathon.


Also challenging for honours will be four runners from Eastern Europe, three Russian and one from Ukraine. Albina Ivanova-Mayorova, 34, has got a quick PB of 2:25:35 from Chicago 2003, and finished in 2:28:06 in 2010 Toronto Marathon. Lidiya Grigoryeva, 37, (PB 2:25:10, 2006 Los Angeles) won the 2008 Chicago Marathon with 2:27:17 and clocked 2:26:47 in Chicago in 2009. Another Russian, 24-year old Natalia Puchkova, will be making her debut over the distance and comes armed with a 32:46:27 PB over 10,000m on the track from earlier this year. Ukrainian Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko, 28, set her 2:28:14 personal best in the 2011 Krakow Marathon.  


The field of five Turkish runners will include Beijing Olympian Bahar Dogan, 37, (PB 2:34:53, Dusseldorf Marathon 2011 and 1:10:20 in 2009 Trabzone Half Marathon), and 33-year old Mehtap Sizmaz (PB 2:31:13 at Istanbul 2006), who ran 2:35:45 in Turin in 2010 and 2:32:04 in the 2009 Madrid Marathon.


The elite field will be chasing a  $1,001,000 prize purse. Also on offer is a $150,000 World records bonus. The winners in the Marathon will each receive $50,000. Winners in the 15Km race will receive $4,000 each.


Organisers are expecting a field of 9350 runners, including 3200 from other countries, to beat the previous year’s participation record. 2410 have registered for the Marathon, 4200 for the 15Km race, and 2740 for the 8Km, all starting at 9:00 in the morning. At 9:30 a morning Fun Run will follow, limited to 85,000 participants due to security demand of Bosporus Bridge Authority.


Yelena Kurdyumova and Sergey Porada for the IAAF