The 13th edition of the DOZ Lodz Marathon on Sunday (23) will also be the third occasion that the race is part of the IAAF Silver Label Road Race series. A strong African-dominated field in the men's race, led by Kenya's Jafred Kipchumba, will be vying for the race’s first sub-2:10 performance in the history of the race. Agnieszka Mierzejewska of Poland will start as favourite among the women.
East African men have won five of the last six editions of the race, a streak likely to continue this year with Kenyans and Ethiopians dominating the elite field. The current course record, 2:10:02 set by Belachew Ameta four years ago, may come under threat as this year's race includes two men with much faster personal bests.
Heading the entry list is the 33 year old Kimpchumba. The highlight of his career was the victory in Eindhoven back in 2011 with 2:05:48. The Kenyan was also the winner in Milan in 2010 and the runner-up in Toronto the same year, with 2:09:15 and 2:08:10, respectively. More recently, he took second in Sevilla in 2015 and third in Barcelona in 2016, both with times just outside 2:10, a barrier he might challenge in Lodz.
The most serious challenge to Kipchumba may come from his compatriot Samson Barmao. The 35-year old has bettered 2:10 six times in his career, including the 2:08:52 he ran to take second place in Rome in 2012. His only marathon victory came in Cologne in 2011, but he has finished in the top three in several races, including Eindhoven and Daegu. The race in Lodz will be his first marathon outing since taking fourth place in Warsaw in the autumn of 2014.
Another man with experience of running on Polish roads is the Etiopian Abdisa Sori, who finished eighth in the Orlen Warsaw Marathon two years ago in 2:10:04, a time which remains his best. His resume also includes two other races in the 2:10 range and two marathon victories, in Caen and Cannes.
Wosen Zeleke is another Ethiopian contender, and like his countryman, he set his personal best in the Polish capital, taking fourth place in the Warsaw Marathon in 2013 with 2:10:56.
Mierzejewska the woman to beat
Agnieszka Mierzejewska starts as the fastest athlete in the women's field. The 31-year old set her PB in the DOZ Lodz Marathon two years ago with 2:30:55 to take second place. Last year she repeated her runner-up finish in the race and took eighth place in Chicago, finishing just over 2:32 on both occasions. She also finished a creditable ninth in the half marathon at the European Championships. Mierzejewska's one marathon victory came at the Warsaw Marathon in 2012 and she appears in a good position to make it two.
The strongest opposition to the Pole may be Kenza Dahmani of Algeria. The 2016 Olympian also finished third in last year's Rome marathon in a time of 2:33:53. She is also an accomplished half marathon specialist with 1:11:28 to her name.
Another potential contender is Amelework Bosho of Ethiopia, whose fastest ever is 2:32:39 from Valencia in 2012. The 30-year old has won two marathons, in Treviso and Palermo, both in 2010.
Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF