David Kiyeng winning the 2010 Joongang Seoul Marathon (Joongang Marathon organisers) © Copyright
Preview Seoul, Korea

Kiyeng returns to Seoul to defend title - PREVIEW

A large field of 21,188 runners from 20 countries will start the JoongAng Seoul Marathon on Sunday morning (6). Of those, 13,600 will contest the Marathon and 8877 the 10km race.


The JoongAng Seoul Marathon is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.


The first JoongAng Seoul Marathon was held in 1988 in the wake of Seoul's Summer Olympic Games, with the intention to maintain high marathon running standards. The slightly hilly course, which has not changed from  last year, starts and finishes at Jamsil Baseball Stadium and takes runners on a scenic tour around the Korean capital, past the Olympic Stadium and the city's main market areas, Seoul Airport and more.


MEN’s race


The men’s international elite field is composed of 15 athletes from five countries. Eight Kenyan runners will be headed by the defending champion David Kemboi Kiyeng, 28, who won here last year with 2:08:15, narrowly missing the course record of 2:08:13 set by Jason Mbote in 2006. Kiyeng, set his personal best of 2:06:26 with his third place finish in Paris in 2009, and while not finishing this year’s Seoul International Marathon (20 Mar), he came back in June to win the Sao Paulo Marathon (2:11:53).


Kiyeng’s chief opponent is likely to be James Kipsang Kwambai, also 28, who set an impressive PB of 2:04:27 in 2009 when finishing second in Rotterdam. He had already been sub-2:06 in Paris in 2008 (2:05:36). While he has not run a marathon so far in 2011, his last full distance race being his fifth place finish (2:11:31) in New York last year, he has a season’s best of 60:01 for the Half Marathon.


Other notable Kenyan runners are Alfred Kering, 31, whose PB is the 2:07:11 set in the 2010 Paris Marathon, and 2:07:41 in the same marathon again this year, Edwin Komen, 31, whose 2:07:45 PB came at the 2008 Seoul International Marathon, Stephen Chebogut, 26, who at this year's Paris race set his PB of 2:08:02, Julius Kiplagat Korir, 29, who ran his career best of 2:09:46 this year in Enshede, Boniface Muemo Mbuvi, 24, whose fastest (2:09:27) was set at last year's Chuncheon marathon, and Stephen Njoroge Kenyanjui, 31, who has a PB of 2:15:22 from the 2010 Hanover Marathon.


Yet the Kenyans will not have it all their own way. Ethiopia will be well represented by Wegayehu Girma, 23, who was third in last year’s JoongAng Seoul Marathon in a PB of 2:08:25 and this year was fourth (2:13:19) in the Seoul International Marathon. Then there are his compatriots Mulugeta Wami, 29, who has a PB of 2:08:32 from the 2010 Paris Marathon, and Yemane  Tsegay, 26, whose best dates back to Paris in 2006 (2:06:10) but produced 2:07:11 in last year’s Prague Marathon and 2:11:49 in this year’s Tokyo race.


Others to watch include two Moroccans: Adil Annani, 31, winner of the 2009 Beppu-Oita Marathon (2:10:15) and a debutant Hafid Chani, 25, whose half marathon PB of 1:02:23 was set in the 2011 Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon. Look out also for France’s French Patrick Tambwe, 36, PB 2:08:55 (2004) who ran 2:10:09 in this year’s Tiberias Marathon, and from Zimbabwe, Wirimai Juwawo, 30, PB 2:13:38 (2010).


Among the domestic elite runners with a chance for victory are Jin-hyeong Jeong who set a PB of 2:09:28 when finishing second in this year’s Seoul International Marathon and was 23rd at this year’s World Championshipsin Daegu, and Junhueon Hwang, whose PB is 2:10:43 from finishing sixth in the JoongAng Seoul Marathon in 2010.


WOMEN’s race


As is the tradition here, the women's field consists of only a domestic elite field. Among the starters are Athens Olympian Kyung Hee Choi, 30, (PB 2:30:19 in the 2004 Seoul Marathon) and Na-Ri Jin, 21, runner-up in 2010 JoongAng Seoul Marathon with 2:46:51.


The current women’s course record of 2:29:32 was set in 2007 by Korean Eung-Jung Lee.


Yelena Kurdyumova & Sergey Porada for the IAAF