Kenyan Marathon runner Justus Koech (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Warsaw, Poland

Leading Poles face rising Kenyan talent in Warsaw

The men’s course record might not come under threat at this year’s PZU Warsaw Marathon, but the closely-matched field for the IAAF Bronze Label road race on Sunday (24) suggests there’s an exciting race in store.

There’s similarly little to separate the leading women and the top contenders would need to improve their PBs by just one minute to challenge the course record of 2:29:32.

For the spectators who’ll assemble in the Polish capital, though, the focus will be on a trio of home-grown runners who have a genuine chance of taking victory in the men’s race.

Poland’s Arkadiusz Gardzielewski has this year won national titles at cross-country and on the track at 10,000m. In May he finished sixth at the Ottawa Marathon in 2:13:43, his fastest time since setting his PB of 2:11:34 at the 2012 Vienna Marathon.

Compatriot Mariusz Giżyński has a slightly quicker PB, having clocked 2:11:20 in Rotterdam in 2012. The 36-year-old finished behind Gardzielewski in Ottawa in a season’s best of 2:15:17. Blazej Brzezinski’s best of 2:12:17 dates back to the 2013 Berlin Marathon. He hasn’t run faster than 2:15 since then, but he is hoping that this weekend’s race will mark a return to form.

But the Polish trio will face three Kenyans and three Ethiopians with similarly solid credentials.

Justus Kiprotich is the fastest of the field based on season’s bests. The Kenyan finished third at this year’s Barcelona Marathon in a PB of 2:11:38 and looks to be on an upward curve. Kenyans have traditionally fared well in Warsaw, too, with five of the past six editions being won by Kenyan men.

Compatriot Paul Kios Kangogo hasn’t raced so far this year, but his fastest time of 2016 – 2:11:39 from the Dongguan Marathon – is just a second slower than Kiprotich’s season’s best. The 28-year-old’s PB of 2:11:00, set in 2014, makes him the second-fastest man in the field.

Fellow Kenyan Jonathan Kiptoo Yego owns the fastest PB of the field with his 2:09:57 lifetime best. That mark, however, was set nine years ago and his fastest time since the start of 2016 is 2:13:59. Yego, whose best this year is 2:17:36, finished runner-up in Warsaw in 2014, but his last trip to Poland ended in disaster as he failed to finish at last year’s Krakow Marathon.

It has been seven years since an Ethiopian man won the PZU Warsaw Marathon, but Haftu Tadele will be aiming to end that drought on Sunday. A 2:12:08 performer at best, Tadele’s fastest time this year was set in Dongying, where he finished eighth in 2:14:43.

He’ll be joined on the start line by compatriots Beyene Effa, a 2:12:51 runner, and Woldesemayat Ayele.

While Kenyans have dominated the men’s race in Warsaw in recent years, only one Kenyan runner has managed to win the women’s race since the inaugural edition in 1979.

There’s a strong chance, however, that this year’s event could see its second Kenyan victor in the women’s race as the East African nation boasts the three fastest entrants.

In her most recent marathon, Recho Kosgei chopped more than five minutes from her PB to finish fifth in Barcelona in 2:30:09. If she is able to improve on that mark just slightly on Sunday, Kosgei could rewrite the course record of 2:29:32, set in 2013 by Goitetom Haftu.

Compatriot Beatrice Cherop also arrives in Warsaw off the back of a good year. Her 2:31:07 PB in Marrakech earlier this year and subsequent 2:32:19 fourth-place finish in Rome suggests that Cherop and Kosgei will be evenly matched on Sunday and could push one another on to their first sub-2:30 clockings.

Fellow Kenyan Risper Kimayio, the current IAU world 50km champion, owns the fastest PB of the field, but her lifetime best of 2:29:16 was set eight years ago. The last time she ran faster than 2:40 was May 2014.

Ethiopian duo Bekelu Beji and Etalemahu Habtewold should also challenge for podium positions. Beji finished third in Rabat this year in a PB of 2:34:05, while Habtewold set a PB of 2:35:39 to finish ninth in Hong Kong.

Weather forecasts suggest the conditions shouldn’t be too much of a problem with Warsaw set to be about 14C on Sunday with a slight breeze.

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF