Kenyan Patrick Wachira Muriuki and Konjit Tilahun Biruk of Ethiopia will start as marginal favourites at the 29th Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, in Pyongyang, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, on Sunday (8).
With a pair of sub-2:11 performances to his name, capped by his 2:10:00 lifetime best from 2011, Muriuki will start as the fastest man in the field. But he has yet to race this year so his current form is a mystery.
Morocco will be represented by a two-front attack consisting of Mohamed Chaaboud and Abdelkabir Saji. Chaaboud set his personal best of 2:13:47 in January when finishing seventh in the Marrakech Marathon while Saji, 42, ran his 2:12:11 lifetime best in Florence in 2011. This year he's clocked 2:13:44 to finish fifth in Marrakech.
Most familiar to the tens of thousands of spectators expected to line the streets of Pyongyang will be Cephas Pasipamiri of Zimbabwe, who'll be making his fourth appearance. He set his personal best of 2:14:41 in this race in 2014, finishing fifth and was also sixth in 2016 and ninth in 2014.
Others to watch include Soyekwo Kibet of Uganda who will apparently be making his debut over the distance. The 25-year-old has a 1:03:45 personal best in the half marathon from 2013, but has raced sparingly over the past two seasons.
Million Yehualashet Zewdie of Ethiopia, 29, has a 1:02:01 lifetime best in the half marathon, but doesn't have a recorded mark over the full distance. He too will be making hims 2018 debut.
Konjit Tilahun Biruk of Ethiopia leads the women's field.
The 30-year-old has a 2:28:11 marathon best set in Dubai in 2014, and a 1:09:00 half marathon best from 2013. This year she was fifth in the Adana Hal Marathon in 1:13:25.
She'll face compatriot Amelework Fikadu Bosho, who has a 2:32:39 personal best, set in 2012.
Kenya will be represented by Beatrice Jelagat Cherop, Mercy Jelimo Too and Naomi Jepngetich. Cherop has the fastest credentials of the three, courtesy of a 2:31:07 personal best from Marrakech in 2017. Too clocked 2:34:52 in 2015 and Jepngetich 2:36:55 in 2012.
The men's race record of 2:10:50, set by Jung-Won Kim, dates back to 1996. The women's record of 2:26:02 was set by two-time winner Yong-Ok Jong in 2007.
The route is an out-and-back course that runs through central Pyongyang, taking in many of the iconic buildings, monuments and streets before heading out into the countryside just outside of the urban centre, before turning and running back again. The race starts and finishes inside Kim Il Sung Stadium before a capacity crowd of 50,000 spectators.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF