Volha Mazuronak and Hillary Maiyo, the course record-holders of the Minsk Half Marathon, will return to the Belarusian capital on Sunday (9) in the hopes of winning their third titles at the IAAF Bronze Label road race.
For Mazuronak it will be something of a homecoming as it’s her first race since winning the European marathon title in Berlin last month. Despite dealing with a nosebleed during the race and briefly taking a wrong turn, the former race walker unleashed a devastating finish to win in 2:26:22.
Earlier in the year, she placed 18th at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships Valencia 2018 in a national record of 1:10:56, although even that isn’t a true reflection of her ability over 13.1 miles as she covered the second half of the 2016 London Marathon in 1:10:35.
Mazuronak, who finished fifth in the marathon at the 2016 Olympics, has set course records in Minsk in her two previous appearances, clocking 1:12:02 in 2015 and 1:11:44 in 2016.
Maryna Damantsevich will also looking to pick up another title. The Belarusian won the 2014 Minsk Half Marathon in 1:13:33, which was a PB at the time before she reduced it to 1:12:13 one year later. She finished fourth in the marathon at the recent European Championships in 2:27:44, taking nearly three minutes off her PB.
Nastassia Ivanova, who finished fifth in the marathon at the European Championships, will also be in Minsk alongside fellow Belarusians Nina Savina, the defending champion, and steeplechase specialist Sviatlana Kudzelich.
Belarusian runners have won the women’s race at all four editions of the Minsk Half Marathon and with such a strong domestic line-up this year that trend looks set to continue.
Mazuronak isn’t the only athlete who’ll be lining up in Minsk off the back of winning a continental title. Kyrgyzstan’s Daria Maslova won the 10,000m at the recent Asian Games and finished second in the 5000m. Her best half marathon performance this year, 1:13:38, came in a race with little opposition. Her PB for the distance of 1:11:06 was set just last year and will be one of her targets for this weekend’s race.
Compatriot Viktoriia Poliudina struggled with the conditions at the Asian Games and finished a distant 12th in the marathon. The 29-year-old, who has a half marathon PB of 1:13:19, will be looking to rebound in Minsk.
Others in the field include Kenyan duo Agnes Chebet and Sheila Jerotich plus Ethiopia’s Meseret Gebre Dekebo.
Maiyo set the course record of 1:03:00 on his first appearance in Minsk and came close to it last year with 1:03:18. But he may need to run faster than he ever has done before if he is to win a third successive title and hold on to his course record.
Ethiopia’s Abebe Negewo Degefa has a lifetime best of 1:00:40, set in Usti Nad Labem in 2013. His fastest time for the distance this year is 1:02:39, set when finishing second in Suwon.
Kenya’s Joel Mwangi Maina is another accomplished half marathon runner. He finished fourth in Milan earlier this year in 1:01:33, just 17 seconds shy of the PB he set back in 2014.
Bernard Korir has also shown promising form ahead of this weekend’s race. The Kenyan clocked 1:02:07 in Doha earlier this year to miss out on his PB by just eight seconds.
With a best of 1:00:29, Ethiopia’s Feyera Gemeda owns the fastest PB of the field, but he has raced sparingly in recent years and his last half marathon was a 1:03:51 clocking in 2016.
Other contenders include Morocco’s Tahir Belkorchi, Ukrainian duo Mykola Yukhymchuk and Dmytro Lashyn, and authorised neutral athlete Rinas Akhmadeyev.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
Feyera Gemeda (ETH) 1:00:29
Abebe Negewo Degefa (ETH) 1:00:40
Joel Maina Mwangi (KEN) 1:01:16
Hillary Kiptum Maiyo (KEN) 1:01:41
Bernard Korir (KEN) 1:01:59
Tahir Belkorchi (MAR) 1:02:22
Mykola Yukhymchuk (UKR) 1:02:28
Dmytro Lashyn (UKR) 1:02:52
Rinas Akhmadeyev (ANA) 1:03:19
Volha Mazuronak (BLR) 1:10:57
Daria Maslova (KGZ) 1:11:06
Sviatlana Kudzelich (BLR) 1:11:45
Nina Savina (BLR) 1:11:50
Agnes Chebet (KEN) 1:12:09
Maryna Damantsevich (BLR) 1:12:13
Nastassia Ivanova (BLR) 1:12:15
Meseret Gebre Dekebo (ETH) 1:12:43
Viktoriia Poliudina (KGZ) 1:13:19
Oleksandra Duliba-Shafar (BLR) 1:14:11
Sitora Khamidova (UZB) 1:14:19
Sheila Jerotich (KEN) 1:15:31