Both the men's and women’s race records will be the targets at the fifth edition of the Mattoni Karlovy Vary Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Saturday (20).
The men’s field boasts four runners with personal bests faster than the race record of 1:01:01 that Elijah Tirop set in 2015. Of those one, Gilbert Masai, has sub-60 minute credentials. The 35-year-old has broken one hour on three occasions, most recently in Berlin on 2 April, winning in 59:17. His set his lifetime best of 59:31 in Copenhagen last September.
Meanwhile, 21-year-old Shadrack Kimining brings solid recent consistency to the west Bohemian spa town. He opened the year by landing on the doorstep of the 60-minute barrier, clocking 1:00:07 for seventh in Ras Al Khaimah in February. More recently he ran 1:01:17 in Yangzhou, finishing fifth.
Their compatriot Mark Korir is also expected in the mix for a top finish. With a 2:05:49 lifetime best from 2015 in the marathon – and more recently, a 2:06:05 run for third in Seoul – the 32-year-old brings stronger credentials over the longer distance to the start line. But with a 1:00.48 personal best, he can't be ruled out.
Eritrea's Dawit Weldesilasie, 22, could also be a factor but he'll have to regain his form from two years ago when he produced his 1:00:26 best.
The women's course record of 1:09:07 was set last year by Joyciline Jepkosgei in her international debut. Less than one year later, the 23-year-old Kenyan, who races on the RunCzech team, went on to become the first woman to crack the 65-minute barrier with her 1:04:52 performance in Prague. Jepkosgei broke four world records (pending ratification) in that historic run in the Czech capital on 1 April, smashing the 10km, 15km and 20km marks en route to her half marathon victory.
Organisers hope that Kenyans Mercy Kibarus and Yvonne Jelagat, who boast performances faster than Jepkosgei's 2016 run, can set out to make the race record assault a strong possibility.
Kibarus, 33, is the most experienced of the three. She owns a 1:08:18 lifetime best from 2013, finished a creditable fifth at the 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, and more recently improved her marathon best to 2:26:52 in Seoul in March.
Jelagat, a relative newcomer on the international scene, made notable progress in the Prague race, where she clocked a lifetime best of 1:09:04 to finish seventh, with a 31:46 10km time en route, also a personal best.
In all, 4000 runners are expected to take part.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF