The 43rd edition of the famous Corrida Pedestre International de Houilles, the last major road race in France for 2014 and an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, will see Kenya’s Cornelius Kangogo defend the title he won in 2013 on Sunday (28).
However, Kangogo is likely to face a strong challenge from his compatriots Thomas Longosiwa and three-time winner Micah Kogo, the latter also being the runner up for the last two years in the Parisian suburb.
Kangogo, who celebrates his 21st birthday next Wednesday, was a slightly surprising winner 12 months ago in what remains his 10km personal best of 27:58 but, having had a series of good track outings during the summer and also finishing second at the African cross country championships earlier in the year, he may feel that if the conditions are favourable then a tilt at the course record of 27:47, set by Ethiopia’s Imane Merga in 2010, might be feasible.
Kogo, still only 28 although he has been on the international circuit for almost a decade, is a familiar face in Houilles and has regularly returned to the race although the last of his three consecutive wins came in 2008.
His last race was a rather modest 14th place at the New York Marathon last month but in difficult conditions, with the cold and wind causing many other runners plenty of problems as well in the Big Apple, that may not be the best indicator of his current shape.
Longosiwa has had a busy year and dipped well below 13 minutes for 5000m on the track when he ran 12:56.16 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stockholm, finishing second to Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris who ran a world-leading 12:54.83, but has only one win to his name this year - in the Kenyan Prisons Championships 5000m - and so will be keen to finish the year on a high note.
Not to be discounted either is their fellow Kenyan Mark Kiptoo, who won the Frankfurt Marathon in October, and Eritrea’s 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships 5000m silver medallist Abrar Osman.
Leading the domestic challenge is European 3000m steeplechase champion Yoann Kowal, who will be dreaming of becoming the first Frenchman to win the race since Paul Arpin in 1987, although the odds must be against him.
Well-known French internationals Morad Amdouni, Abdelatif Meftah and Hassan Chahdi will also be on the start line on Sunday.
Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet is an interesting name in the women’s elite field. The 18-year-old has never run competitively on the roads before andnot raced over anything longer than 5000m and so there must be a question mark over how well she will cope with 10km.
Nevertheless, the teenager is a huge talent, running 9:20.55 for the 3000m steeplechase this summer – the second fastest junior time ever - and she also took the world junior title over the barriers so there will be a lot of curiosity about what she can do.
The accepted best 10km time on record for a junior is 31:29 by Karoline Bjerkeli Grovdal in 2009 which, coincidently, is exactly the same time as the Houilles course record set by Kenya’s Margaret Wangari Muriuki in 2011.
Kenya’s Peris Jepchichir showed good form when winning the Montbeliard half marathon in a personal best of 1:09:12 in October and could also be a factor.
In addition, another woman to look out for will be Yemenu Tewabech who will be making her debut in a European race after some promising performances at altitude in her native Ethiopia.
Morocco’s Rkia El Moukim, third in last year’s race, also returns to Houilles while the leading European names are multiple French half marathon champion Fatiha Klilech-Fauvel, Great Britain international Sonia Thomas as well as Ukraine’s Svitlana Stanko and Olga Kovotska.
Phil Minshull and organisers for the IAAF