With three sub-2:06 Kenyan men entered for the Seoul Marathon, it’s highly likely that an athlete from the east African nation will triumph again at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday (19).
Three-time winner Wilson Loyanae Erupe returns to the Korean capital. The 28-year-old Kenyan successfully defended his title last year with a course record of 2:05:13 to notch up his seventh successive career marathon win. But in October last year that streak came to an end when he finished a distant fifth in Gongju in 2:08:52.
Felix Kiprotich was the winner on that occasion, running a PB of 2:06:58, and the Kenyan will again line up against Loyanae in Seoul this weekend. Kiprotich will be keen to improve on his second-place finish to Loyanae in Seoul in 2015.
Ernest Ngeno may not be one of the fastest in the field, but he too finished ahead of Loyanae in Gongju last year. The 21-year-old recorded a PB of 2:07:49 in that race and has been steadily improving in each of the past four seasons.
Jafred Kipchumba and Mark Korir are the two other Kenyans in the field with sub-2:06 PBs. Korir won the 2015 Paris Marathon in a PB of 2:05:49 and came within a minute of that time to win last year’s Frankfurt Marathon. Kipchumba’s PB of 2:05:48 dates back to 2011, but he made it on to the podium at the 2016 Barcelona Marathon and 2015 Seville Marathon.
Turkey’s Kaan Kigen Ozbilen finished third last year in a PB of 2:06:10, the fastest time ever recorded by a European. The former track specialist will be keen to achieve his first marathon win this weekend.
Other contenders include Valencia Marathon champion Victor Kipchirchir, 2:06:13 performer John Mwangangi, 2011 world 10,000m finalist Peter Kirui, Frankfurt runner-up Martin Kosgey, and 2015 Seoul third-place finisher Jacob Kendagor.
The women’s race looks set to be just as competitive.
She may not be in the kind of form that took her to the Olympic title in 2012, but Ethiopian record-holder Tiki Gelana must still be respected. Her last outing was a 1:14:11 run at the Quanzhou Half Marathon in December, but she finished third against a quality field at the Tokyo Marathon as recently as 2015.
If Gelana isn’t in sub-2:30 form, fellow Ethiopian Ashete Bekele Dido could start as favourite. A 2:23:43 performer at her best, Dido finished seventh at last year’s Tokyo Marathon in 2:25:50.
Compatriots Aberu Mekuria and Letebrhan Haylay Gebreslasea could also ensure an Ethiopian win, although both may still be feeling the effects of running the Hong Kong Marathon five weeks ago. Mekuria won on that occasion in 2:33:43, finishing 13 seconds ahead of Gebreslasea. The latter has the faster PB, though: 2:25:24 to 2:25:30.
Margaret Agai’s best of 2:23:28 was set when winning the 2013 Daegu Marathon. The Kenyan has made it on to the podium at every marathon she has contested, including last year’s Shanghai Marathon where she finished second in 2:26:20.
Janet Rono was fourth in Seoul last year, so the Kenyan – who has a best of 2:26:03 – will be keen to make it on to the podium this time. Compatriot Rael Kiyara should also be in contention, as should Namibia’s Beata Naigambo and Korea’s Kim Seongeun.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF