Kenya’s John Mwangangi and Namibia’s Beata Naigambo will return to defend their titles at the Valencia Trinidad Marathon Alfonso, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, in the eastern Spanish city on Sunday (20).
Mwangangi clocked a career best and Spanish all-comers’ record of 2:06:13 last year. Since then the 26-year-old has raced only once, at a 10km road race in San Juan back in February when he clocked 28:00.
He spent several years as a half marathon specialist, setting a PB of 59:45 in Valencia in 2011 and earning bronze at the 2012 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, before moving up to the marathon in 2013. After recording a 2:09:32 debut in Rotterdam, he has steadily improved each year.
But the defending champion will have to face Matthew Kisorio, who lowered his lifetime best to 2:06:33 when finishing second to Mwangangi last year. The 27-year-old clocked a below-par 2:14:13 at this year’s Donying Marathon, but recently rebounded with a 1:01:41 half marathon effort in Copenhagen.
Solomon Kirwa Yego clocked a world-leading 58:44 in Rome and went on to make his marathon debut in Prague, where he ran 2:08:31 to finish third. More recently, the Kenyan finished sixth at the Valencia Half Marathon held four weeks ago in 1:00:11.
Another in-form athlete is Cosmas Kiplimo Lagat, this year’s Seville Marathon winner in 2:08:14. Lagat, still 21, won in Seville two years ago in 2:08:33 to set one of the fastest ever times by an U20 athlete.
Peter Cheruiyot Kirui is also one to watch. The 28-year-old was sixth in the 10,000m at the 2011 IAAF World Championships and went on to set a marathon PB of 2:06:31 later that year. He has shown fine form this season with two sub-60-minute performances for the half marathon.
The men’s field features no fewer than 16 runners who have run faster than 2:10 at least once, headed by Kenya’s Geoffrey Mutai who won the 2012 Berlin Marathon in 2:04:15. Hampered by injuries over the past three years, the 35-year-old is targeting a good performance in his first marathon this season.
Mutai recorded 2:09:29 in Berlin last year while his last appearance came in Trento over 10km when he recorded 29:44 for seventh.
Getu Feleke’s career best of 2:04:50 makes him the second-fastest entrant, but the Ethiopian will need to significantly improve on his season’s best of 2:18:46 to be in the hunt on Sunday.
There will be a number of pacemakers, headed by Kenyans Eliud Kiprop Tarus and Geoffrey Yegon. Their target will be to pace the lead group until halfway in 1:02:50, putting them on schedule to break the course record of 2:06:13.
Naigambo looks for hat-trick
Beatrice Naigambo will be chasing a third straight victory in Valencia. The 36-year-old Namibian finished 41st at the Olympic Games in Rio, but her most recent outing came in Valencia four weeks ago when she clocked 1:13:45 to finish seventh over the half-marathon distance.
Her 2:26:57 course record from last year seems to be in serious jeopardy as eight other contenders have run faster than 2:30.
The Ethiopian tandem of Bethlehem Moges and Aberu Mekuria should also fight for the podium spots. Moges, 25, set her career best of 2:24:29 in Dubai last year while her season’s best stands at 2:26:36. Mekuria’s quickest ever performance of 2:25:30 was set when winning last year’s Ottawa Marathon. Her season’s best of 2:29:51 was also set in the Canadian city.
Lucy Kabuu will be leading the Kenyan Challenge. The 32-year-old’s PB of 2:19:34 was set back in 2012, but her only performance this year is a 1:16:30 effort at the Lisbon Half Marathon in October.
She will be joined by her compatriot Valary Jemeli Aiyabei, the winner of this year’s Barcelona Marathon in a lifetime best of 2:25:26. More recently, the 25-year-old Kenyan ran 1:10:44 in Lisbon.
Last year’s runner-up Nancy Jepkosgei Kiprop, who set her PB of 2:27:34 on that occasion, will also be returning to Valencia.
The rest of sub-2:30 marathon runners are Peru’s Gladys Tejeda, China’s Yinly He and Italy’s Emma Quaglia.
Kenneth Tarus and Emmanuel Bor will be the pacesetters, aiming for a 1:12:30 midway split to put the athletes on pace for the 2:26:57 course record.
A record number of more than 19,000 runners, including 5850 from overseas, will take part in Sunday’s race, the first ever Spanish marathon to earn the IAAF Gold Label.
Weather forecasters predict a cloudy day and a temperature of about 15C by the time of the event.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF