After the women’s half marathon world record was set in Barcelona earlier in the year, organisers of the 24th Medio Maraton de Valencia Trinidad Alfonso are hoping that their IAAF Silver Label Road Race will also produce some fireworks on Spanish soil on Sunday (19).
The men’s competition record belongs to Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai, who clocked 59:30 in 2009, and the organisers are feeling confident that they can emulate their counterparts in the Catalan city with a Spanish all-comers' best. That mark is currently held by another Kenyan, the late Samuel Wanjiru, when he ran 59:26 in Granollers in 2008, just a few months before his Olympic marathon triumph in Beijing.
To achieve that feat, a high-quality field has been assembled, topped by a powerful Kenyan contingent which includes the former marathon world record-holder Patrick Makau, who can boast of a best of 58:52 over this distance.
The 29-year-old memorably broke the marathon world record when he clocked 2:03:38 three years ago in Berlin.
However, Makau sustained a hamstring injury the following year which prevented him from finishing the London Marathon and caused him to miss the London 2012 Olympic Games.
After a promising 2:06:08 win at the Frankfurt Marathon later in 2012, his last victory in any race, Makau had a disheartening 2013 campaign as he had to settle for just 14th place on his return to the London Marathon before suffering a knee injury which forced him to skip competitions for more than a year.
However, he showed hints of his huge talent on his return to the roads when he took fourth place in a 10km race in Cape Elizabeth, South Africa, with a promising 27:57 at the start of August.
His compatriots and rivals on the start line include Kenneth Kipkemoi, with a half marathon best of 59:11, who should be eager to succeed after second place finishes in Valencia in 2012 and 2013; Abraham Cheroben (best of 59:14), Simon Cheprot (59:20), 2013 Valencia winner Jacob Kendagor (59:36) and Matthew Kisorio (58:46).
The only non-Kenyan who looks capable on paper of making the podium seems to be Eritrea’s Amanuel Mesel (1:00:10), who spends much of his time based in Spain. However, history and the start list is against him triumphing; the last non-Kenyan winner of the men's race was in 2005.
A flat circuit and the low altitude of Valencia, which is about 16 metres above sea level, should again help the runners produce fast times.
Chepkirui bidding for hat-trick of victories
The women’s field promises to be another Kenyan party, led by last year’s winner Joyce Chepkirui, who also won in 2010. She holds a quality best time for the distance of 1:06:19, set in Prague last April, and is the Valencia course record-holder at 1:08:15 from her victory in 2013.
The 26-year-old is fresh from a creditable 31:02 win over 10km in Berlin last Sunday while her fellow Kenyan and reigning world cross-country champion Emily Chebet also showed fine form as she was given the same time when finishing second behind Chepkirui in the German capital.
The Berlin result was history repeating itself as Chebet also came a close second in Valencia last year, crossing the line in 1:08:20.
Also in the hunt for the victory should be a third Kenyan in the guise of Margaret Muriuki, who completed a classy podium in Berlin in 31:06.
Muriuki holds a career best of 1:09:21 for the half marathon and, like Chebet, also has a good cross-country pedigree having placed fifth at last year’s World Cross Country Championships.
The only other runner on the start list who has run faster than 70 minutes is Morocco’s Malika Asahssah, who has a best of 1:09:11. The 2011 winner's current form includes finishing second in the Marrakech 10km in 31:58 three weeks ago.
No fewer than 10,700 runners from 41 countries have entered this year’s race, which winds its way through the historic city centre and the America’s Cup port area. Weather forecasters predict quite a sunny day, with no rain, and temperature in the range of 18-20 degrees Celsius during the event.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF