Kenyans Edwin Kipngetich Koech and Sheila Chepkech will be looking to defend their titles at the 18th EA7 Emporio Armani Milano Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label road race, on Sunday (8).
Last year, the 26-year-old Koech crossed the finish-line in Porta Venezia in the centre of Milan in 2:07:13 knocking four seconds from the previous Italian all-comers record set by his compatriot Benjamin Kiptoo in Rome in 2009. Koech races well in Italy, having also clocked his half marathon career best of 1:00:24 in Verona in 2017.
“I prepared well for this race and I am ready to set my personal best,” Koech said at a press conference on the eve of the race.
“Run fast, live cool” has been the motto of the Milan Marathon for many years and this year top runners will be looking to dip under the 2:07 barrier.
The fastest in the field is 20-year-old Ethiopian Seifu Tura, who finished seventh on the super fast course in Dubai clocking an impressive personal best of 2:04:44 last January. Tura will run his third marathon in the past five months, as he also finished second in Seoul in 2:09:26 last November.
Chepkech is returning to Milan looking to repeat her 2017 win, a 2:29:52 run after a close fight against Italian Anna Incerti. The 28-year-old Kenyan went on to finish second in Kosice last autumn setting her lifetime best of 2:29:13 in the fourth marathon of her career.
Lucy Kabuu Wambui starts with the fastest time among the entrants with an impressive 2:19:34 set in Dubai in 2012 on her debut over the distance, and currently 12th on the marathon all-time list. The 34-year-old Kenyan also ran very fast times on the track clocking 14:33.49 in the 5000m in Oslo in 2008 and 30:39:96 at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing when she finished fifth. She was based in Japan for many years and won a team silver medal at the 2005 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. In 2012 she finished fifth in London and third in Chicago and won the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in February 2013 setting her personal best with 1:06:09. More recently Kabuu finished sixth in 2:31:21 in Hong Kong last January.
“The Milano Marathon has been one of the few men’s races with a sub-2:10 time in almost every edition," said Race Director Federica Rosa. "This year we will also be focused on the women’s race, where the goal is to break the course record of 2:24:59 set by Margaret Okayo in 2002."
The race will also be an important selection race for Italy's marathon squad for next August's European Championships in Berlin. The best Italian runner in the men’s field is former European U23 10,000m bronze medallist Yassin Rachik, who finished sixth in 2:13:22 in his debut over the distance in Milan last year.
Rosalba Console and Fatna Maraoui will battle for the top Italian spot. Console finished fifth at the European Championships in Munich 2002 and clocked her personal best of 2:26:10 at the Berlin Marathon in 2011, but has not run a marathon race since the 2014 European Championships in Zurich. The 38-year-old made her return to competitions in 2016 one year after giving birth to her second child Davide. Maraoui set the fastest time of her career with 2:30:50 in Valencia in 2015 and won the Padova Marathon in 2017 in 2:32:52.
The race takes place on a fascinating course with the start and finish at the same point in Corso Venezia in the centre of Milan. Runners will pass by all the most famous monuments of Italy's second city including the Duomo Gothic cathedral, the Scala Theatre, the Arco della Pace, the Castello Sforzesco and the skyscrapers of City Life, the modern business and commercial district of Milan.
About 25,000 runners are expected to take part including 6900 in the marathon.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF