Course record-holder Mulu Seboka of Ethiopia will return to the Guangzhou Marathon on Sunday (10) in a bid to regain her title from five years ago at the IAAF Silver Label road race.
Seboka clocked 2:26:46 to take a convincing victory at the inaugural edition of the race back in 2012 and her course record has stood untouched ever since. She returned to the southern Chinese city last year but was beaten by compatriot Aynalem Kassahun and had to settle for second place in 2:32:26.
The 33-year-old, who set a personal best of 2:21:56 when finishing sixth in Dubai in 2015, is still seen as one of the favourites. The former Jakarta, Dubai, Daegu and Toronto marathon winner has run two sub-2:30 marathons this season, clocking 2:29:17 to finish seventh in Prague in May and 2:29:55 to finish fourth in Istanbul last month.
With the absence of defending champion Kassahun, who raced in Valencia three weeks ago, Kenya’s 37-year-old Georgina Rono could be Seboka’s biggest threat. With a 2:21:39 PB set five years ago, the 2014 Hamburg Marathon winner is the fastest woman on the entry list. She won the Doha Marathon in January and clocked a season’s best of 2:28:52 to finish third in Dongying in May.
Rono’s compatriot Anne Cheptanui Bererwe is also among the favourites. The 35-year-old improved her PB by more than one minute to finish second in Chongqing in March in 2:27:18, making her the fastest entrant of the current season.
Rahma Tusa also renewed her PB in 2017. The Ethiopian clocked 2:27:21 when successfully defending her title in Rome in April, bettering her career best by 88 seconds. She went on to finish third at Beijing Marathon in 2:33:22 in September before winning her first international half marathon title in Boulogne-Billancourt last month with a PB of 1:08:28.
The field has another three sub-2:30 runners including Chinese runner He Yinli, who clocked 2:27:35 in Chongqing two years ago, 37-year-old Lithuanian Diana Lobacevske, who set a PB of 2:28:48 to finish 12th in London earlier this year, and Ethiopia’s Mulu Diro, who clocked 2:29:10 to finish second at the 2015 Barcelona Marathon.
Organisers have also assembled a deep field in the men’s race as a dozen sub-2:10 runners will target the course record of 2:10:01 set two years ago by Morocco’s Abdellah Tagharrafet.
With a PB of 2:04:54 set when finishing third in Dubai in 2012, Markos Geneti is the fastest in the field, but the Ethiopian has slipped off the radar in recent years. The 33-year-old’s last notable performances were in 2015 when he finished sixth in Tokyo in 2:07:25 and third in Orlen in 2:08:11.
By contrast, Kenya’s Evans Chebet has shown solid form in recent years. Last year he registered two sub-2:06 clockings and set a PB of 2:05:31 in Berlin.
The 29-year-old went on to clock 2:06:42 to finish fourth in Tokyo in February and he improved his PB by one second to finish second in Valencia three weeks ago. His performance in Guangzhou will depend on how quickly he has recovered from that effort.
Chebet’s compatriot Edwin Kipngetich Koech is also among the favourites. The 25-year-old set an Italian all-comers’ record of 2:07:13 when winning in Milan in April, trimming more than three minutes off his previous PB of 2:10:52.
This will be the first year in which the Guangzhou Marathon has carried an IAAF Silver Label. Hot and humid weather at the first five editions of the race affected runners in the coastal city, but the forecast for Sunday predicts a cloudy day with the temperature ranging from 11-22C.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF