Ambesa Tolosa of Ethiopia celebrates his Paris Marathon win (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview 7 April 2005 – Paris, France

Record 35,000 runners to start Paris Marathon – Race PREVIEW

Paris, FranceAmbesa Tolosa (Ethiopia) and Banuela Mrashani (Tanzania) will head the list of elite runners respectively for the men’s and women’s races among the 35,000 starters at the 29th edition of the International Paris Marathon on Sunday, 10 April 2005.

If the overall women’s participation in this year’s race can be regarded as weak (only 15% of the runners), this criticism cannot be aimed at the overall international representation, as runners from 88 nations will be on show, and the event will be followed by around 200,000 spectators in the French capital.

MEN - Past winners and Paris newcomers join battle

This edition will join the last two winners in Paris, Tolosa and Michael Rotich (Kenya). Both are mainly road race specialists. Tolosa will start his first Marathon since Athens Olympics where he took 15th place, while Rotich aims to forget his under-performance in the Fukuoka Marathon last December. The Kenyan is the Paris course record holder with 2:06:33 in 2003, good enough to place him 12th on the world all-time lists.

Rotich will line-up against a group of exceptionally strong team mates who are making Paris race debuts, 2002 Boston and New York winner Rodgers Rop, 2004 Milano winner Daniel Cheribo, and the fast Stephen Cheptot (2:07:59).

Outsiders Mwenze Calombo and Patrick Tambwe, both from the Democratic Republic of Congo, are both used to running on French roads, and there is another quick Ethiopian Abiyote Guta, the fastest junior ever (2:10:38 in 2004). However, the African armada may be disturbed by Japan’s Takayuki Inubushi, a 2:06:57 performer and former Asian record holder, who is coming back from injury.

WOMEN - Gigi in good form

In the female race, Mrashani seems to have the best chance with a 2:24:59 personal best and 3rd place in Paris two years ago, but Irina Timofeyeva (35 years old) has both experience and fast times (2:25:29), and also knows this course (2nd in 1999). Another experienced Russian, Irina Permitina (37), has a 2:26:51 time to her credit and has best placed 9th in her three previous participations in Paris.

Ethiopian Ashia Gigi, who was second last year with 2:26:05 behind Salina Kosgei (who won’t defend her 2004 win), will line-up with a recent personal best at the Half Marathon distance of 69:53 in Lisbon. Kenyan Florence Barsosio, a winner in Paris 6 years ago, is gradually finding form following her return from pregnancy. Surprises may come from France’s Corinne Raux (3rd last year) and Zahia Dahmani, as well as from Italian Rosaria Console (2:27:48 for 2nd place in 2003).

A circuit designed for breaking records

The Paris Marathon was born in 1896, a few months after the symbol of the Olympic Games of the Modern area was held in Athens. Coming first among the 191 runners, Len Hurst (GBR) won the race in 2:31:30. But it was not before 1976 that another Marathon was held in the French capital. In 1981, the course was designed in order to make the event internationally attractive and its reputation has grown year after year. However, its popularity wasn't enough to challenge other big cities Marathons, also held in the spring and on much faster courses.
With the aim of finally breaking the 2 hours 10 minutes barrier, the organisers erased the few uphills and curves in 1998. The circuit now follows a flat path from East to West through Paris.

Mike Rotich’s 2:06:33 makes Paris Marathon the sixth fastest ever, while the women’s race record has been held since 2002 by Marleen Renders of Belgium with 2:23:05. However, as fast as it might be the course hasn’t transformed into a treadmill, as the route rises until the 18th kilometre, before sloping gently down during 15km, and finally going up again at around the 30 kilometre point.

The start will take place this Sunday morning (10 April) at 8:45AM (GMT + 2), and the weather forecast expects a cloudy sky with low temperatures which seems ideal conditions for a fast race.

Pierre-Jean Vazel for the IAAF