Reason to smile: David Mandago wins in Hamburg (/Bongarts) © Copyright

Spotlight on Mandago Kipkorir and Mergia - Paris Marathon preview

Paris, FranceSome 37,000 runners will take part to the 33th edition of Marathon de Paris – an IAAF Gold Label Road Race - on Sunday 5 April in front of an expected crowd of 200,000 spectators along of the streets of the French capital. A huge Kenyan contingent, led by David Mandago Kipkorir, is expected to animate the race, while the Ethiopian women might dominate the female rankings with favourites Worknesh Tola and Aselefech Mergia.

First Paris outing for Mangago Kipkorir

For his 14th Marathon, the experienced Mandago Kipkorir, 34, will make his debut in France. After running his last two marathons in 2:07 (winning in Hamburg in April 2008 in 2:07:23, and placing second in Chicago in October with 2:07:23), the Kenyan has legitimate ambitions, both placing and timing-wise. Although the course record has stood since 2003 (2:06:33 by Michael Rotich), Paris is still one of the fastest Marathons in term of density with no less than twelve finishers under 2:10 last year.

In the absence of title defender Tsegaye Kebede, his fellow countryman Bazu Worku will represent the main chance for Ethiopia. The winner of the Paris Half-Marathon in March, Worku, 21, will make his debut over the 42.195km distance. His task won’t be easy with the presence of Kipkorir and four other sub-2:08 performers from Kenya: Boniface Usisivu (2:07:50 in 2005), David Kiyeng (winner in Reims in 2007 and 2008 in 2:07:53), Shadrack Kiplagat (2:07:53 in Rotterdam two years ago) and Philip Singoei (2:07:57 for a win in Eindhoven and 7th in Paris in 2007).

France places its hopes on Driss El Himer, who just showed his shape in winning his seventh Cross Country national title (matching Noël Tijou’s record). After a career on the track (7:34.46 at 3000m and 13:10.99 at 5000m), El Himer’s debut in the Marathon in 2001 was stunning (2:07:02). The 34-year-old will renew on Sunday with Paris Marathon, where he set his personal best of 2:06:48, the fastest of the field, in 2003.

Outsiders include Rwandese Dieudonne Disi, 27:22.28 last year at 10,000m, whose performance will be closely watched for his first ever Marathon, and Vanderlei Lima, the 40-year-old 2004 Olympic bronze medallist from Brazil.

Debutantes in the spotlight in the women’s race

The women’s race will highlight a Marathon newcomer, Aselefech Mergia. The silver medallist at the World Half Marathon Championships in October, the 24-year-old Ethiopian impressed again in February, becoming the 14th fastest ever at the distance with 1:07:48 in Ras Al Khaimah. She may well have an eye on the course record (2:23:05) held by Marleen Renders since 2002.

However, she will first have to contain Worknesh Tola, who was second last year in Paris in a personal best of 2:25:37. Tola will be eager to erase her deception from last year when Martha Komu (absent this year) pulled away with 200m to go to take an unexpected victory. Since then, the 31-year-old Tola has not impressed on the road circuit (14th in Chicago in 2:38.13, 12th in Osaka in 2:33:51) but she has the advantage of having started 18 marathons in her career and knows the Paris course.

Their teammate Eyerusalem Kuma has proved her form this year with a personal best of 2:26:51 for sixth place in Dubai. The main chance for Kenya to take the double will be in Julia Muraga’s hands, a 2:26:00 performer last year, but was well beaten by Aselefesh in Ras Al Khaimah as she placed 10th in 1:09:40.

Russian Natalya Volgina (PB 2:27:32) and Christelle Dauney of France (2:28:22) will assume the leading roles Europeans to take the victory in Paris.

The race sets off at 08:45 (CET) for the 37,000 registered participants from 94 countries on Avenue des Champs-Elysées. It then proceeds the Place de la Concorde, Rivoli Street, Bastille, closing the loop via Bois de Vincennes, quais de Seine Bastille, Trocadero, Bois de Boulogne, before ending on Foch Avenue near the Arc de Triomphe. The main difficulties occur in the eighth and 36th kilometres as runners have to face tight uphill stretches. The weather forecast calls for a foggy Sunday morning with warm temperatures.

Pierre-Jean Vazel for the IAAF