Course records have been broken at the past two editions of the Lattelecom Riga Marathon and that streak looks set to continue at the IAAF Bronze Label Road Race on Sunday (15).
Ethiopia’s Haile Tolossa clocked a course record of 2:12:28 to win the men’s race last year. Although he won’t defend his title, compatriot Beyene Effa Soboka, who finished second last year, will be back in the Latvian capital.
Soboka set a PB of 2:12:52 in Riga last year, which was also inside the previous course record. The 29-year-old will be keen to improve on his time and his finishing position in this year’s race, having made it on to the podium in his two marathons last year.
But Kenya’s Dominic Kimwetich Kangor will be a tough man to beat. The 26-year-old won the Brighton Marathon in 2013 and then reduced his PB to 2:09:36 at the 2014 edition of the race. He has run faster than 2:12 on seven occasions, including at this year’s Barcelona Marathon where he finished sixth in 2:11:43.
Uganda’s Phillip Kiplimo has the potential to make it on to the podium, but the 25-year-old hasn’t improved on his best time since clocking 2:11:30 on his marathon debut in 2013.
Charles Maina is one of the oldest in the field, but the 33-year-old Kenyan should still be competitive. His 2:13:19 PB dates back to 2011, but he came within 11 seconds of that mark two years ago and recently ran 1:02:32 at the Paderborn Half Marathon.
Ethiopia’s Shumet Mengistu has only contested two marathons two date, but has shown clear progression between the two performances. He chopped four minutes off his PB when running 2:13:39 in Odense in October and could revise that mark again in Riga this weekend.
Similarly, Bethwel Chemweno could be one to watch. The Kenyan will be making his marathon debut in Riga, having set a PB of 1:01:33 for the half marathon last year.
Others in the field include Portugal’s Hermano Ferreira, Tanzania’s Ezekiel Jafary Ngimba, Eritrea’s Kaleab Selomon and Morocco’s Hicham El Barouki.
The local crowd, meanwhile, will be supporting Latvia’s Janis Viskers in his quest to achieve the Olympic qualifying standard of 2:19. Last year in Frankfurt he was just one minute shy of that mark.
The women’s field looks just as competitive as the men’s and there is a fair chance of the two-year-old course record of 2:36:51 being challenged.
Her 2:26:10 PB may make her the fastest in the field, but 2001 Amsterdam Marathon winner Shitaye Gemechu hasn’t run faster than 2:35 since February 2013, while her best this year is a 2:43:05 clocking at altitude in Bloemfontein.
There are three other closely matched Ethiopians, however, who could spur each other on to a course record.
Abiyot Eshetu, Mulunesh Zewdu and Jemila Shure all produced lifetime bests last year with just 18 seconds separating them. Eshetu ran 2:34:07 to win in Wurzburg, Zewdu clocked 2:34:10 to triumph in Odenze, while Shure finished third in Belgrade in 2:34:25. If they are able to finish within a couple of minutes of their respective PBs, Riga’s course record will be broken.
No Kenyan woman has ever won in Riga, but Divina Jepkosgei will try to upset the Ethiopian party on Sunday. The 32-year-old has a best of 2:34:21, set three years ago in Duluth.
Former race walker Anita Kazemaka was an agonising five seconds shy of the Olympic qualifying mark at last month’s Vienna Marathon. The 25-year-old, who represented Latvia in the marathon at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015, will be hoping that the extra support from the home crowd on Sunday will give her the boost she needs to run faster than 2:45.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
Dominic Kimwetich Kangor (KEN) 2:09:46
Phillip Kiplimo (UGA) 2:11:30
Beyene Effa Soboka (ETH) 2:12:52
Charles Maina (KEN) 2:13:19
Hermano Ferreira (POR) 2:13:28
Shumet Mengistu (ETH) 2:13:39
Victor Chelokoi (KEN) 2:14:05
Ezekiel Jafary Ngimba (TAN) 2:14:05
Kaleab Selomon (ERI) 2:14:22
Hicham El Barouki (MAR) 2:14:38
Arnold Kibet Kiptaoi (KEN) 2:17:34
Bethwel Chemweno (KEN) debut
Shitaye Gemechu (ETH) 2:26:10
Abiyot Eshetu Deme (ETH) 2:34:07
Mulunesh Zewdu (ETH) 2:34:10
Maria McCambridge (IRL) 2:34:19
Divina Jepkosgei (KEN) 2:34:21
Jemila Shure Wortesa (ETH) 2:34:25
Anita Kazemaka (LAT) 2:39:57
Gladys Kibiwot (BRN) 2:47:56