A race record assault is on tap at the 22nd Volkswagen Ljubljana Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race, in the Slovenian capital on Sunday (29).
More than half a dozen men with credentials to better Ethiopian Limenih Getachew's 2:08:19 event record from 2015 will toe the line, led by in-form Marius Kimutai of Kenya.
The 25-year-old took a notable 2:06:04 victory in Rotterdam in April, a performance that ranks him 14th on the world list this year. Kimutai made his breakout last October when he clocked a lifetime best of 2:05:47 to finish third in Amsterdam, also the 14th best performance of 2016. Kimutai warmed up for Ljubljana with a 1:00:07 half marathon PB in Porto on 17 September.
Powered by a 2:06:13 personal best which he set two years ago in Valencia, compatriot John Mwangangi has the ability to challenge, but the 2012 world half marathon bronze medallist has raced sparingly on the roads in 2017, so his form on arrival this weekend is somewhat of a mystery.
Among the better recognised names is that of Solomon Kirwa Yego, the 30-year-old Kenyan who has displayed good consistency on the road in recent years. He was third in April's Paris Marathon with a personal best 2:07:12, and in February was fourth at the RAK Half in 59:50. Notable too was his 58:44 course record run at the Rome-Ostia Half Marathon in 2016. That's not a record standard course, but nonetheless is one of the fastest times ever recorded over the distance.
The field also includes Levi Matebo Omari, who'll start as the fastest in the field with a 2:05:16 personal best. That was set Frankfurt in 2011 when he finished second; more recently the 27-year-old Kenyan was third in Ottawa last May where he clocked 2:10:48.
Matebo was third in Ljubljana last year in 2:09:37 but would have finished significantly faster were it not for a faux pas in the waning kilometres that quickly unraveled a genuine race record assault. The Kenyan was one of three men who were on 2:07:30 pace – well within the race record – when they made a wrong turn in the 39th kilometre, following a police vehicle and TV crew which drove off the course. Organisers estimated that the misdirection added between 500 and 600 metres to the trio's run. Although the official results weren't changed, organisers did financially compensate the three for the mishap.
Philip Sanga Kimutai, who has a 2:06:07 lifetime best from 2011, returns to Ljubljana after a runner-up finish last year. Meanwhile, Tariku Jufar leads the Ethiopian charge, boasting a 2:06:51 lifetime best from 2012.
Others in the hunt include 23-year-old Kenyan Albert Korir, the winner at this year's Vienna Marathon, in 2:08:40. Notable debutantes include Kenyan Barselius Kipyego, who brings personal bests of 27:46 (10km) and 59:14 (half marathon) to the start.
Changwony back to defend women’s title
The women's race record dates back to 2009, when Kenyan Caroline Kilel, who went on to win the 2011 Boston Marathon and twice in Frankfurt, produced her career breakout with a solid 2:25:24 victory.
Based on recent form, Ethiopian Shuko Genemo Wote could have that mark in her sights. The 22-year-old clocked 2:24:31 to win in Vienna last year, and followed up with a 2:26:06 run this year to finish fourth.
Likewise Kenyan Jane Jelagat Seurey, who improved to 2:26:29 this year when finishing fourth in Rotterdam. She'll likely shadow the moves of compatriot Purity Changwony, who returns to defend her title. The 27-year-old set her 2:29:32 personal best in Ljubljana last year, but hasn't raced since.
Others in the chase include Ethiopians Biruk Konjit Tilahun, Shashu Insermu and Azalech Mastech Woldeselasse. Tilahun has a 2:28:11 lifetime best from Dubai in 2014 while Insermu finished runner-up in Ljubljana last year in a personal best 2:30:53. Woldeselasse clocked a 2:25:34 best in 2010 but the 29-year-old hasn't shown similar form, however, with a just a modest 2:34:35 to her credit this season.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF