Mulu Seboka on her way to winning the Toronto Waterfront Marathon (Organisers / Victah Sailer) © Copyright
Preview Guangzhou, China

Former champion Seboka returns to Guangzhou Marathon

Ethiopia’s Mulu Seboka will be seeking to improve her own course record at the fifth edition of Guangzhou Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, in the southern Chinese city on Sunday (11).

First established in 2012, this is the first year that the event has been an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race and the organisers have showed their ambition for breaking course records.

Seboka clocked 2:26:46 to take an overwhelming victory in Guangzhou in 2012 and her winning mark has stood as the course record ever since. This year the vastly experienced Ethiopian, who is the fastest woman on paper, is the biggest hope to renew it.

The 32-year-old won four marathons in a row between October 2013 and October 2014 with victories in Jakarta, Dubai, Daegu and Toronto. She went on to record a PB of 2:21:56 when finishing sixth in Dubai in 2015.

She returned to Dubai earlier this year and clocked a season’s best of 2:24:24 to finish fifth, making 2016 her fourth year in succession with a sub-2:25 clocking.

However, the weather on Sunday could work against Seboka’s pursuit of a course record as the forecast has predicted a cloudy day with the temperature ranging from 14-25C.

Janet Jelagat Rono is the second-fastest woman on the entry list. The Kenyan, who turns 28 on Friday, is a former winner of the Hong Kong, Cologne and Ljubljana marathons and has a personal best of 2:26:03 set in 2014. She set her season’s best of 2:27:23 when finishing fourth in Seoul in March.

The field also includes two other sub-2:27 runners. China’s Ding Changqin set her PB of 2:26:54 when winning the 2015 Chongqing Marathon while Lishan Dula of Bahrain has a career best of 2:25:56 set back in 2011.

With nine men in the field boasting personal bests faster than the 2:10:01 course record set last year by Morocco’s Abdellah Tagharrafet, organisers are hopeful of the course record being broken in the men’s race too.

Marius Kimutai leads the Kenyan challenge. Kimutai has run faster than 2:10 three times this year and has never finished outside the top three in all seven of the marathons he has contested to date. He set his lifetime best of 2:05:47 in his most recent outing when he finished third in Amsterdam two months ago.

His biggest threat could be compatriot Frankline Chepkwony. The 32-year-old set his PB of 2:06:11 when finishing second at the 2012 Eindhoven Marathon and has shown good form this season, finishing fifth in Seoul in 2:06:51.

Kenyan duo Nickson Kurgat and Jacob Cheshari are also men to watch on Sunday. Two-time Chuncheon Marathon winner Kurgat has a PB of 2:07:11 and the 32-year-old Cheshari’s PB of 2:07:46 was set in 2013 when finishing fourth at the Frankfurt Marathon.

Like Kimutai, Kenya’s Ezekial Omullo and Ethiopia’s Alemayehu Belachew both renewed their PB in 2016. Omullo chopped 24 seconds off his PB en route to taking a second consecutive win at the Warsaw Marathon in 2:08:55. Belachew, meanwhile, improved his PB by just one second to 2:09:49 at the Dubai Marathon in January.

The field also includes Qatar’s Essa Ismail Rashed whose PB of 2:07:54 was achieved in 2014 and Ukrainian veterans Vitaliy Shafar (2:09:53) and Oleksandr Sitkovskyy (2:09:11). But none of them have run faster than 2:10 in 2016 so far.

Vincent Wu for the IAAF