Mulu Seboka of Ethiopia will return to the Shenzhen Marathon on Sunday (16) eyeing to improve on her runner-up finish from last year and chase the course record at this IAAF Silver Label road race in the process.
In the absence of last year’s winner Viktoria Poliudina of Kyrgyzstan, the 34-year-old Seboka is the top returning runner. Although she may not be in the same form as three years ago when she set her personal best of 2:21:56 PB in Dubai, the vastly-experienced Ethiopian, who has clocked sub-2:30 performances each every year since 2012, is still keen to improve on her 2:35:28 clocking last year and take down Poliudina’s course record of 2:33:25.
It will be Seboka’s third race of the year. She clocked 2:25:01 to finish fourth in Seoul in March and scored a 2:28:59 victory in Dalian two month later.
Kenyan veteran Flomena Chepchirchir, who just celebrated her 37th birthday earlier this month, will also be competing in Shenzhen for the second straight year, after finishing a distant 10th in 2017. Her best performance this year was a sixth place finish in Prague in 2:32:10.
Ethiopian duo Melkam Gizaw and Ashu Kasim are also title contenders. The 34-year-old Kasim set her PB of 2:23:09 to claim the title in Xiamen back in 2012, while Gizaw, 28, registered her life-time best of 2:24:28 to finished second in Seoul in 2016. But neither has run a race so far this season so their competitiveness remains to be tested.
Ethiopia’s Markos Geneti, 34, is the fastest entrant in the men’s field thank to his 2:04:54 third place finish in Dubai in 2012. He also finished second in Dubai two years later in 2:05:13 and sixth at the Tokyo Marathon in 2:07:25 in 2015. More recently he was second in Guangzhou 12 months ago clocking 2:10:06.
Like Geneti, David Kiyeng of Kenya is yet to prove his worth in 2018. The 35-year-old, a past winner in Reims, Seoul and Daegu, set his career best of 2:06:26 in 2009. His last notable race was a 2:08:58 win in Kosice in 2016, which was also his only sub-2:10 performance since April, 2012.
Kiyeng’s countryman Samuel Ndungu, on the contrary, is the most in-form man in the field. The 30-year-old clocked 2:07:51 to finish second in Lisboa two month ago, just 47 seconds slower than his PB set in 2012.
The field also includes Edwin Kipngetich Koech of Kenya, who broke the Italian all-comers’ record with 2:07:13 in Milan last April, and fellow Kenyan Edwin Kimaiyo, the third place finisher last year, whose 2:09:12 PB was set at the 2017 Shanghai Marathon where he finished fourth.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF
Fast times in prospect at Kolkata 25km
The Tata Steel Kolkata 25K, an IAAF Bronze label road race, has once again attracted strong fields for its fifth edition on Sunday (16).
Ethiopia’s defending women’s champion Degitu Azimeraw, who surprised everyone in 2017 by taking the honours in a course record of 1:26.01 in her first international race, sounded confident that she can go even faster in this year’s race.
“I have ambitions to win this race again and I am in very good shape,” said the 19-year-old. “Last year’s race changed my life and I am happy to return here.”
She will be alongside Kenya’s two-time world champion Florence Kiplagat on the start line.
Kiplagat, a gold medallist at the 2009 IAAF World Cross Country Championships and the 2010 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, as well as a former half marathon world record holder, admitted that that last two years have been difficult as she has battled injuries.
“My training has been interrupted with injuries and also I had a bad spider bite on my left calf earlier in the year and it swelled up. But I killed the spider,” joked Kiplagat, who now juggles being a top-class runner with being a mother and businesswoman in Kenya.
Kiplagat is also a two-time winner of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and mentioned how much she enjoys Indian races and despite her far-from-perfect preparations, she anticipates not letting down Indian athletics fans.
“25km is a good distance for me. To be honest, despite my results, I don’t enjoy marathons as much as half marathons and cross country.”
Her compatriot Eric Kiptanui boldly predicted he would beat the Indian 25km all-comers best and course record of 1:13:48 set by Ethiopian distance running legend Kenenisa Bekele last year and might even be in shape to challenge the world best of 1:11:18 set by another Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in Berlin in 2012.
“After Berlin (where he ran a 58:42 half marathon, the third fastest time of the year) I had some slight injury problems but I’m over them now and feel ready to run very well. Seeing Eliud Kipchoge run a world marathon record in September has inspired me, he’s my neighbour and lives just 800 metres away from my house. I think that next year I can break the world half marathon record (58:18 by Kenya’s Abraham Kiptum, set last month in Valencia),” commented Kiptanui.
Ethiopia’s Birhanu Legese who, like Florence Kiplagat, is also a two-time Delhi Half Marathon winner and most recently ran in India in May this year when he was second in the TCSW10K in Bengaluru, will try to maintain his country’s winning streak in Kolkata.
“I like racing in India a lot as it’s often warm races and I seem to do well in them,” said Legese, who has ambitions of not only beating Bekele’s course record but, perhaps, challenging the Ethiopian national best of 1:11:37, set by another Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie.
Phil Minshull (organisers) for the IAAF
Birhanu Legese (ETH)
Eric Kiptanui (KEN)
Augustino Sulle (TAN)
Amos Kipruto (KEN)
Robert Chemonges (UGA)
Shumi Dechasa (BRN)
Samson Gebreyohannes (ERI)
Nathan Ayeko (UGA)
Fentahun Hunegnaw (ETH)
Bayelign Yegsaw (ETH)
Degitu Azimeraw (ETH)
Florence Kiplagat (KEN)
Failuna Matanga (TAN)
Loganathan Suriya (IND)
Dibaba Kuma (ETH)
Sudha Singh (IND)
Sutume Asefa (ETH)
Ftaw Zeray (ETH)
Linet Toroitich (UGA)
Hawi Megersa (ETH)
Limo, Kipchumba and Kiplagat the favourites in Mersin
Course records will also be targeted at the Mersin Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (16).
With the forecast predicting temperatures to hover around 16 C throughout the race in this Turkish Mediterranean city, both the men’s and women’s records could be under threat on the flat and fast course. Organisers are hoping that the men’s record of 2:11:21 set by Moroccan Hassane Ahouchar last year could be challenged by a solid field that includes Kenyans Kenneth Kiplagat Limo and Hillary Kipchumba and Evans Kiplagat of Azerbaijan.
Limo ran 2:10:24 in Madrid earlier this year while finishing second in the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. The 28-year-old’s last international marathon victory was in 2016 in Dongguan, China, where he beat Kipchumba into second place. He’ll be aiming to repeat that on Sunday.
Kipchumba set his 2:08:23 lifetime best in Gyeongju, Korea in 2016. The Mersin Marathon will be his 15th over the distance, so he’ll bring plenty of experience to the start line.
Kiplagat will be another experienced runner lining up on Sunday, arriving with a winning reputation on Turkish soil. Kiplagat won the Istanbul Marathon in 2016 and has a personal best of 2:07:46 set in 2014.
The favourites might be surprised by the 20-year-old marathon debutant Demeke Kasaw, the youngest man in the field, who has 1:01:43 half marathon credentials from last year.
Others to watch include Moses Too, the runner-up in Mersin last year, and Andrey Petrov of Uzbekistan, the marathon silver medallist at the 2017 Asian Championships.
On the women’s side, expect an Ethiopia vs Kenya battle. With her career best of 2:28:11, Ethiopian Konjit Tilahun is one of the favourites along with compatriot Chaltu Dida, the winner at both the Tours and Toulouse marathons this year.
Kenyan Gladys Yator, a 1:08:39 half marathoner, is expected to be a factor. She ran 2:34:46 in the Marrakesh Marathon in January, the second marathon of her career. Gladys Chemweno has a PB of 2:30:30 from 2016 set when winning the Krakow Marathon. Nancy Jelagat, who finished second at the Hamburg Half Marathon with 1:10:18 this year, completes the Kenyan squad.
The women’s course record stands at 2:28:47, set by Kenya’s Truphena Chirchir last year.
Mersin, the tenth largest city in Turkey, is expecting to gather more than 100,000 participants in a 5km run which will start after the marathon.
Can Korkmazoglu (organisers) for the IAAF