Edwin Kipyego will be looking to defend his title at the 38th edition of the challenging 20km French classic Marseille Cassis, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday (30).
Kipyego, who also won in 2012, was not only the 2015 champion but he also improved the course record with 57:18. The 26-year-old Kenyan could become the seventh athlete to achieve back-to-back success in the race and could also join the most prolific Marseille Cassis winners, Jean-Pierre Louvet and Tony Martins, with three titles over the distance.
But it won’t be an easy task for Kipyego, who earlier this year finished 12th at the World Half Marathon Championships.
Edwin Rotich, 28, should be one of his rivals, if not the main one. The Kenyan is in good form, having improved his half marathon PB to 59:32 with his third place finish in Valencia. Rotich’s record over the half marathon is just two seconds outside Kipyego’s, 59:30 from 2015.
Kipyego’s last outing was a 1:00:44 run in Yanghou in April where he finished runner-up. He clocked his season best of 1:00:27 when he won in Den Haag one month earlier.
Not to be discounted is Kenyan Remmy Ndiwa who in March clocked a 1:00:06 half marathon lifetime best. He was the runner-up in Lisboa in early October in 1:02:48.
Other contenders for the podium include Kenyan pair of Henry Kiplagat, whose 1:00:01 is the third fastest PB in the field, and Ezrah Sang, who brings a lifetime best of 1:00:36 to the line. Eritrea’s Simon Tesfaye, who clocked 28:27 and 1:01:00 over 10km and the half marathon this year, could also be a factor.
Can Afera end Kenyan women’s dominance?
In the women’s contest, two-time defending champion Peres Jepchirchir won’t be gunning for a “hat-trick”, leaving the race wide open. Kenya’s Peninah Arusei has the fastest PB in the field with 1:07:48, but that was set six years ago. The 2010 world half marathon bronze medallist recently clocked 1:09:08 and won the Lille Half-Marathon last year in 1:08:56.
Ethiopia’s Godfay Afera seems to have the best form at the moment. The 25-year-old lowered her personal best to 1:08:32 in Usti Nad Labem last month, where she finished third. She will be attempting to become the first Ethiopian to prevail in Cassis since 2009.
But Joyline Jepkosgei and Parendis Lekapana will be aiming to extend the Kenyan winning streak in the women’s race to seven editions. The former won the Karlovy Vary Half Marathon in a PB of 1:09:07 in May while the latter triumphed in Krems in a best mark of 1:09:49.
Both French half marathon champions Fanny Pruvost and Thierry Guibault will take part in this year’s race along with more than 15,000 runners, which makes Marseille Cassis one of the most popular road races in France.
The course is unique insofar as runners must climb up the challenging 327-metre Col de la Gineste halfway through the race before the descent towards Cassis.
Quentin Guillon for the IAAF