Kenyans Richard Limo and Julia Mombi respectively top the men’s and women’s fields for the 28th edition of Reims Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, which starts on the parvis of the city’s Cathedral on Sunday (16) at 10:35am.
Concerning the men’s race, the very dense field comprising nine runners under 2:10 makes the outcome unpredictable.
Richard Limo’s personal best, 2:06:45 dates back to 2007, and the former track specialist who became 5000m World champion ten years ago is yet to show his form this season, as he didn’t finish the Daegu Marathon in April. However, the 30-year-old has not yet passed his athletic prime as indicated by his three marathons last year: a win in San Diego in 2:09:58 and two second places, in Los Angeles (2:09:48) and Honolulu (2:17:18). The Kenyan will have to be back to his best in order to break Reims’ race record of 2:07:53 set by David Kyeng in 2008.
The Reims race route design has remained the same since 2008 with no real difficulty until the last kilometres when an uphill stretch leads to the finish line. The forecast suggests that the climatic conditions will be favourable this weekend for a record bid, and the French pacemakers Simon Munyutu and James Theuri have been asked to lead the pack on this basis.
Limo will be challenged by his teammates James Mbuga (first in Mombasa last year in a personal best of 2:08:05), David Kemboi (a former winner in Reims four years ago and 2:08:24 performer), Abraham Chelanga (accustomed to French road circuit with a 2:08:43 reference), Joseph Lomala (2:09:32) and Alex Kirui (2:09:38).
Erick Kibet and Francis Kosgei, having run the half-marathon in 61:10 and 61:37, respectively, will make their marathon debuts, while unknown Victor Lagat will take part to his first race in Europe.
As usual, Ethiopia will line-up a strong contingent, led by Yared Dagnew Sharew, 4th in Eindhoven last year in 2:08:13.
The women’s race, on the other hand, seems to have an obvious favourite in Julia Mombi, 26, looking at her credential. Third in Osaka in 2008 in 2:26:00, 12th at 2009 World Championships and 5th in Paris the same year, she has run under 2:30 on four occasions, a barrier than none of her opponents have broken.
However, the experienced Kenyan has not yet proved her form in the past months. She will face the Ethiopian armada who will line up Meseret Debele (2:30:42), Aberash Bedasa (2:35:18), Ayeleu Lemma (2:35:31) and Ashete Dido (first race in Europe).
The old (1995!) race record by Alla Zhilyayeva should stand another year.
12000 runners are expected to line up the three road races (Maratho, Half-Marathon and 10km) organised at the occasion of the “Reims à toutes jambes” event.
P-J Vazel for the IAAF