When Tigist Teshome defends her Lattelecom Riga Marathon title on Sunday (17), she’ll line up against a much tougher field than last year’s edition of the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race.
The Ethiopian won with a course record and PB of 2:36:51 last year, winning by three-and-a-half minutes. But despite taking 22 seconds off that time earlier this year, there are still six other women in the field with faster PBs.
This will also be Teshome’s third marathon of the year already, having finished 10th in Marrakech and second in Taipei.
Compatriot Workenesh Tola, who represented Ethiopia at the 2003 IAAF World Championships, has the fastest PB of the field. Now 37, her lifetime best of 2:25:37 dates back to 2008, but she is still competitive and finished third in her most recent marathon, clocking 2:36:24 in Warsaw.
Kenya’s Ruth Wanjiru finished one place behind Teshome in Taipei two months ago. The 33-year-old set her PB of 2:27:38 six years ago, but she won the Eindhoven Marathon as recently as 18 months ago, and if she can recapture that form, she could get the better of Teshome.
Ethiopian duo Megeresa Megertu and Meseret Eshetu could also be a danger. Eshetu finished a few places ahead of Teshome in Marrakech earlier this year, clocking a PB of 2:35:15, and then went on to win the Annecy Marathon in 2:36:00.
Megertu, meanwhile, will be contesting her first marathon of the year. She finished third in Milan last year and has a PB of 2:31:49 from the 2013 Seville Marathon.
The European challenge will be led by Lithuania’s Rasa Drazdauskaite and Russia’s Natalia Volgina.
Course record likely in both races
Of the 10 athletes in the men’s elite field, six of them have PBs faster than the Riga course record.
In a high-quality race last year, the top four men bettered the previous course record with Japan’s Yu Chiba winning in 2:13:44.
Chiba won’t be back to defend his title, but Kenya’s 2013 winner Duncan Koech, who finished third last year, will be racing in Riga for the third year in succession.
The 33-year-old’s PB of 2:07:53 was set three years ago, but he has made it on to the podium at his four most recent marathons, and clocked a season’s best of 2:09:17 in Vienna last year. More recently, he finished second in Vienna last month in 2:12:14.
Fellow Kenyan Mariko Kipchumba has the fastest PB of the field. Like Koech, Kipchumba is also 33 years old and set his PB three years ago, running 2:06:05 to win in Reims. Although he finished a distant seventh in Shanghai at the end of last year, he started 2014 well with a 2:08:06 victory in Xiamen. He has also won half of the 12 marathons he has contested to date.
Ethiopia’s Abraraw Tegene is yet to win a marathon, but that could all change in what will be his fourth race over the classic distance. After clocking 2:10:22 on his debut last year, he came close to that time earlier this year in Marrakech.
Yudai Yamakawa will be looking to become the second Japanese winner of the race, while Valerijs Zolnerovics will be trying to break his own Latvian marathon record of 2:14:33.
Also in the field are 2010 Commonwealth bronze medallist Amos Matui and 2014 Brescia Marathon winner Haile Tolossa.
A record number of 25,000 runners from 65 countries is expected in Riga across the various distances. About 2000 of those will contest the marathon.
This will be the 25th edition of the Lattelecom Riga Marathon, the only marathon in northern Europe to have the distinction of an IAAF Label.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
Elite fields (with PBs)
Mariko Kipchumba (KEN) 2:06:05
Duncan Koech (KEN) 2:07:53
Amos Matui (KEN) 2:09:35
Cosmas Kigen (KEN) 2:09:43
Abraraw Tegene (ETH) 2:10:22
Haile Tolossa (ETH) 2:13:24
Yudai Yamakawa (JPN) 2:14:28
Valerijs Zolnerovics (LAT) 2:14:33
Hicham El Barouki (MAR) 2:14:38
Kenta Iinuma (JPN) 2:15:05
Workenesh Tola (ETH) 2:25:37
Natalia Volgina (RUS) 2:27:32
Ruth Wanjiru (KEN) 2:27:38
Rasa Drazdauskaite (LTU) 2:29:29
Megeresa Megertu (ETH) 2:31:49
Meseret Eshetu (ETH) 2:35:16
Tigist Teshome (ETH) 2:36:29
Margaret Muringi (KEN) debut