With nine sub-2:07 runners on the start line for the Schneider Electric Paris Marathon on Sunday (12), the IAAF Gold Label Road Race promises to be a quality competition.
In 2014, Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele set an event record of 2:05:04 on his marathon debut. Although Bekele will not be defending his title, Kenyan Vincent Kipruto will be aiming to return to the top of the podium.
Kipruto won in Paris in 2009 in a PB of 2:05:47. He improved on that one year later with 2:05:13 and then took the silver medal at the IAAF World Championships in 2011. Kipruto is the fastest man on paper for this year’s race. The 27-year-old has run faster than 2:07 five times, but only once since 2011.
Kipruto will face tough competition from the likes of 2012 Prague Marathon champion Deressa Chimsa. The 28-year-old has a PB of 2:05:42 from three years ago and more recently was victorious at the Guangzhou Marathon in November.
Laban Korir, Gilbert Kirwa, Seboka Dibaba and Raji Assefa have all run faster than 2:07 at their best and will be battling it out to get on to the podium this Sunday.
Kenya’s Moses Mosop, who would have been the fastest athlete on the start line with a PB of 2:03:06, has recently withdrawn from the race due to injury problems.
The next fastest athletes in the field are Simon Munyutu, with a PB of 2:09:24, and Abdellatif Meftah, with a best of 2:09:46. Pius Kirop, who has a half-marathon PB of 59:25, will be making his marathon debut.
With the top 15 runners either Ethiopian or Kenyan, this race is set to be an African affair, much like last year.
Seboka faces two-time winner Baysa
Mulu Seboka is one of the favourites for the women’s race. The 31-year-old was victorious at the 2014 Dubai Marathon and finished sixth in the same event this year, but smashed her PB with 2:21:56.
She will need to improve on that further if she wishes to break the course record of 2:21:06, set by Feyse Tadese in 2013.
On Sunday Seboka will be up against fellow Ethiopian Atsede Baysa, who has a PB of 2:22:03 and was winner of the Paris Marathon in 2009 and 2010. The 27-year-old also competed in Dubai earlier this year, but was a distant 17th in 2:27:24.
Amane Gobena is another strong Ethiopian in the field. Winner of the LA and Istanbul marathons last year, Gobena has a personal best of 2:23:50 and will be looking to better her seventh-place finish from Paris in 2013.
Five of the top six athletes are Ethiopian; Kenya’s Emily Ngetich being the exception. The 31-year-old set a PB of 2:25:14 in her most recent marathon and last month smashed her half-marathon PB with 1:09:13.
Martha Komu is the fastest French athlete in the field with her 2:25:33 PB, set when winning in Paris in 2008. But the last time she ran faster than 2:30 was when finishing fifth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The 54,000 expected participants will run past famous Paris monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Place de la Bastille and Notre-Dame Cathedral. The race stretches beyond the centre of Paris, into areas as far as Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne.
Miriam Walker-Khan for the IAAF