Kenya’s Bedan Karoki will take a tilt at the world half marathon record at the Copenhagen Half Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (13).
Karoki – who is also an accomplished runner on the track with a 10,000m best of 26:52.36 – will be racing in the city and on the course which staged last year’s IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, won by Karoki’s compatriot and rival Geoffrey Kamworor.
Kamworor won on that occasion in 59:08 and although the circuit has been modified from the world championship course, the race organisers believe that it is potentially an event faster route.
"This year’s Copenhagen Half Marathon route differs slightly from the one used for the World Half Marathon Championships and is even faster," said Jakob Larsen, director of the Danish Athletics Federation. "I have no doubt that there can be a world record on it, if weather conditions are good”.
Karoki’s personal best is 59:23 from when he won the 2014 Philadelphia Half Marathon. He will also be spurred on by the fact that he just missed out on a medal at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 finishing fourth in the 10,000m
The half marathon world record has stood at 58:23 to Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese, which he ran at the 2010 Lisbon Half Marathon.
However, while Karoki is the biggest name, there are six other runners with personal bests under the hour and another three just a few seconds outside it.
The fastest man in the field, and perhaps the biggest threat to Karoki, will be Simon Cheprot, who ran 59:20 in the Rome-Ostia race in 2013 and returned there and crossing the line in 59:39 for second place earlier this year.
Ethiopia’s Berhanu Legese in another man with good form to his name in 2015 and won the Berlin Half Marathon in March in 59:45.
The three other men in the field who have gone under one hour are all Kenyans
Edwin Kiprop Kiptoo ran a personal best of 59:35 to make a big breakthrough to finish third in the City Pier City race in the Netherlands in March, although he has not raced since.
Joel Kimurer won the Valencia Half Marathon in 59:36 back in 2012 but, to be fair, he has not been under 62 minutes since.
Paul Lonyangata has not raced this year so there must be a question mark over his shape but he has been under one hour for the distance twice in the last three years while Alex Oloitiptip has not been in his best form in 2015 but can point to a best of 59:58 from last year’s Azkoitia-Azpeitia race in Spain.
A good Bett to challenge Karoki?
One other man also deserves a mention, Emmanuel Bett.
Although he has run half marathons for a number of years, the 30-year-old 26:51:16 10,000m runner on the track is now steadily shifting his focus to the roads and he won the 2015 Azkoitia-Azpeitia race in a personal best of 1:00:08.
The women’s race has two women clocked below 69 minutes.
Kenya’s Mercy Kibarus finished fifth at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and has a best of 1:08:18 from the 2013 Rome-Ostia race to claim the role of being the race favourite.
France’s Christelle Daunay was just two places behind Kibarus in the Danish capital 18 months ago and went on to win the European marathon title later in the summer of 2014.
Although she is now 40 and her half marathon best of 1:08:34 dates back to 2010, she is still a formidable competitor.
Purity Rionoripo, a former world youth champion over 3000m showed that she is ready for a breakthrough on the roads when she ran a personal best of 69:00 for fourth place in Yangzhou, China, in April and could challenge the two favourites.
Ethiopia’s Sutume Asefa won this year’s Verbania race in Italy in 1:09:07 in April and might also be a factor.
The start and finish will be right next to the National Stadium in Copenhagen.
Immediately after the gun goes, the runners will pass a number of famous local sights including the National Gallery, the Botanical Gardens, the famous row houses Kartoffelrækkerne and Nyboder as well as the lakes and then area of Nørrebro.
At Nørrebro the course passes by the cemetery, where famous Danes such as Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kirkegaard have been buried.
The course then goes into Frederiksberg, with the popular Frederiksberg Allé where thousands of spectators cheered on the runners at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships last year.
The race finally enters the Copenhagen city centre where the runners will pass Christiansborg castle, Holmen's Church, Nyhavn and The Marble Church, before finishing at Østerbro.
The organisers expect an estimated 25,000 runners to participate in the race.
Phil Minshull and organisers for the IAAF