Peres Jepchirchir will return to defend her title at the Mattoni Usti nad Labem Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Saturday (17).
The 22-year-old Kenyan, who won the IAAF world half marathon title in Cardiff earlier this year, cruised to victory at this race one year ago in a performance that signalled her international breakout. Jepchirchir, who is based in Iten, clocked 1:07:17 last year to slice more than two minutes from the previous course record.
Jepchirchir improved to 1:06:39 in February in Ras Al Khaimah six weeks before her triumph in Cardiff. Her outing on Saturday in the northern Czech city will be her first since her victory in the Ottawa 10km on 28 May.
Her chief rivals will be Ethiopians Muliye Dekebo and Aberu Mekuria.
At 18, Dekebo is a rising star, bringing a personal best of 1:09:52 from her victory at May’s Stralugano Half-Marathon in Lugano, Switzerland, to the line. Mekuria, 32, has a best of 1:12:29 over the distance set earlier this year in Ottawa.
The men’s field boasts four runners who have beaten the one-hour barrier.
Kenyan Barselius Kipyego, the runner-up last year in 1:00:59, has won two of his three half marathon outings this season, including his 1:00:30 victory in Ceske Budejovice on 4 June. He The 23-year-old improved his personal best to 59:30 in April at the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon where he finished second.
Adugna Takele of Ethiopia has also run well this year having improved his best to 59:40, also in Prague. More recently he was fifth at the Ethiopian Olympic Trials 10,000m contest where he clocked 27:20.65.
Meanwhile, 27-year-old Geoffrey Kusuro, who represented Uganda at the 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon championships, comes armed with a 59:43 best set last year.
Another sub-60 man is Aziz Lahbabi of Morocco, who has a 59:25 career best from 2014.
The men’s race record of 1:00:38 was set by Philemon Limo of Kenya in 2013.
The race will be webcast live on Seznam.cz beginning at 14:45 local (GMT+2), 15 minutes prior to the elite start.
The forecast calls for rainy conditions with temperatures hovering around 19C at the start.
Bob Ramsak and organisers for the IAAF