Solomon Bushendich returns to the Maraton de Sevilla, which for the first time is an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race this year, and the Kenyan will be looking not only to defend his title but to launch an attack on the course record on Sunday (23).
Although the former IAAF World Junior Championships and IAAF World Cross Country Championships medallist has never quite made the impact on the world of road running that was expected after his impressive 2:08:52 debut marathon win at the 2006 Amsterdam Marathon, he has shown himself to be a solid performer and the Seville course record of 2:09:53 is certainly within his capabilities.
The record has been held by Ethiopia’s Daniel Abera Wadejo since 2012 and with the race organisers claiming that their circuit is one of the flattest in Europe, certainly there are no geographical hindrances to a major improvement on that time.
Bushendich last year put together three decent races over the classic distance, clocking 2:10:18 in the Chinese city of Xiamen in January, improving to 2:10:13 when winning in Seville six weeks later and then finishing third in astonishingly difficult conditions at the Honolulu Marathon at the end of the year, when his time of 2:19:38 was almost an irrelevancy.
Now 30, Bushendich has far from given up on his ambition of improving on his personal best of 2:08:41, set when finishing second at the 2010 Kosice Marathon.
Regardless of the time, if Bushendich does win again, it will be a rare feat. Only Spain's Vicente Anton has won back-to-back titles before in Seville, in 1986 and 1987.
Perhaps his biggest rival at the 30th edition of the race will be Qatar’s Bellor Yator, who is also 30 and just fractionally faster with a personal best two seconds quicker, which was also coincidently set in Kosice but in 2012.
Bikila debut danger
Among the Ethiopian challengers will be an interesting debutant Adugna Bikila Tekele, who was the fastest man in the world over 10km in 2013 when he clocked 27:30 in Taroduant, Morocco, and he also clocked 1:00:35 at the Nice Half Marathon.
Another man who might have a say at the sharp end of the race is Kenya’s France-based Benjamin Bitok, who has won the Toulouse Marathon for four of the past five years and the Annecy Marathon twice in that time.
Bitok’s best is a relative modest 2:10:54 but he has won 10 of his 14 marathons, including his two in 2013 which were the Mont St Michel Marathon in 2:12:16 and his last outing over the classic distance in Toulouse last October when he crossed the line in his personal best time.
Local interest will be provided by Jose Carlos Hernandez, who competed in the London 2012 Olympic Games marathon and who has a best of 2:11:57, and Spanish track international Francisco Espana, the younger brother of former European 5000m champion Jesus Espana, who will be making his debut over the distance.
The last Spaniard to win in Seville was Jose Ramon Rey in 2001.
The race will start and finish in the Estadio Olímpico de La Cartuja, which played host to the 1999 IAAF World Championships. Spain’s Abel Anton memorably triumphed in the marathon at those championships and he, along with Spain’s other former world champion Martin Fiz, will be guests of honour on Sunday.
Portugal's Marisa Barros has the women’s course record of 2:26:02, a time she set in 2009, which is also the fastest women's marathon ever on Spanish soil. It is a tough target for this year’s field to reach, but Elena Espeso, another Spanish 2012 Olympian, is aiming to improve on her personal best of 2:30.58 set at the 2012 Barcelona Marathon.
The race organisers expect approximately 9000 starters.
The marathon will pass takes place many of Seville’s most well-known monuments such as the Giralda – the bell tower of Seville Cathedral, which is the third largest in the world – Torre del Oro, Plaza de España, Archivo de Indias and the Reales Alcazares, the ancient royal palace, as well as many of the beautiful and historic streets in various picturesque neighbourhoods.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF