Once again, a high class field will line up for the fifth edition of the Copenhagen Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race, on Sunday (15).
The men's field will be lead by three-time world half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya, who will start as the clear favourite for the win. The women’s race, however, comprising eight women with sub-1:08 personal bests, seems more unpredictable.
Having won three consecutive world titles over the distance, Kamworor returns to the city where he took the first of the victories with his triumph at the 2014 edition of the championships.
After his breakthrough, Kamworor would go on the reclaim the titles in 2016 and 2018 as well as the world cross country championships in between and a victory at the 2017 New York City Marathon. Naturally, the spotlight this Sunday is on the formidable Kenyan athlete with a 58:54 personal best, but he will be facing fierce competition in the streets of the Danish capital running against a dozen men who have dipped under the one-hour barrier.
Among them are Moses Kurong of Uganda, who clocked his 59:50 personal best in Copenhagen in 2017 and Eritrea's Abrar Osman, who improved to 59:47 in Lisbon last March. On paper, Kenyans Simon Cherop (59:20) and Edwin Kiprop (59:26) are the next fastest after Kamworor.
European fans will have their eyes on Sondre Nordstad Moen, the former continental record holder in the marathon, who comes armed with a 59:48 lifetime best.
In the women's race, the spotlight will fall on former world record holder Peres Chepchirchir and Dorcas Jepchirchir, who with 1:05:06 and 1:06:33 personal bests are among the fastest in the field.
Chepchirchir, the 2016 world champion over the distance, returned to action in February after taking maternity leave in 2018 with a solid 1:07:36 performance in Ras Al Khaimah, her only half marathon of the year. Jepchirchir meanwhile clocked her personal best in Istanbul in April, finishing second.
Ethiopia will be well represented with Genet Yalew and Dibabe Kuma who'll both bring sub-1:07 credentials to the line. Yalew, the winner of April's Hamburg Marathon, improved her best to 1:06:45 in Barcelona this year while Yalew has gone even faster, clocking 1:06:26 in 2016 while improving her marathon best to 2:24:34 this year in Prague.
Organisers for the IAAF
Local spotlight on Gelant in Cape Town
Local eyes will focus on Elroy Gelant as the South African hopes to succeed compatriot Stephen Mokoka as champion at Sunday's Cape Town Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race.
Gelant clocked a 2:12:50 at his race in 2015 and arrives with hopes on improving on his fifth place finish then.
The field includes Kipkemoi Kipsang, the runner-up at this year's Madrid Rock n Roll Marathon in 2:08:58 and sub-2:10 marathoners Edwin Kibet Koech who most recently clocked 2:10:28 to finish second at the Chongqing Marathon in March and Wilfred Murgor, both of Kenya.
Ethiopian Adbi Fufa, who clocked his 2:09:24 lifetime best in Shanghai last year, could also be a factor. As could Motlokoa Mkhabutlane, who set the Lesotho national record of 2:09.47 when finishing ninth at the Paris Marathon in 2017.
They'll be joined by Lusapho April, another well-known local name, whose career best of 2:08:32 dates back to 2013.
The women's field features eight runners with sub-2:29 credentials.
The most impressive at the moment appear to be Kenyan Celestine Chepchirchir and Abeba-Tekulu Gebremeskel of Ethiopia who have exhibited sub-2:25 form this year. Chepchirchir, 29, improved her lifetime best to 2:24:48 in Seoul in March, where she finished third while Gebremeskel, 30, improved to 2:24:53 in Seville in February, where she crossed the line runner-up.
Ethiopian Urge Diro Sokoka could also play a role. The 25-year-old improved to 2:28:10 behind Gebremeskel in Seville.
The fastest is Kenyan Filomena Chepchirchir but her 2:23:00 lifetime best came in an earlier part of her career with her second place finish at the 2013 Frankfurt Marathon.
Both event records were set last year. South African Stephen Mokoka won the men's race in 2:08:31 and Helalia Johannes of Namibia the women's with 2:29:28. A 100,000 rand (US$ 6860/ EUR 6150) event record bonus is on offer.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
Course record assault on tap at Sydney marathon
Sydney marathon organisers are determined to see the race records go when this year’s race is run on Sunday (15).
The IAAF Gold Label road race, centrepiece of the mass participation Sydney Running Festival that has attracted almost 40,000 entrants, is not as fast as some courses, but any road course in Australia’s biggest city boasting one of the world’s iconic harbours, must be a compromise between aesthetics and degree of difficulty.
Nonetheless, organisers are confident the race records – 2:11:18 by Ethiopia’s Gebo Gameda Burka in 2014 and 2:28:04 by Ethiopian-born Australian resident Makda Harun Haji in 2017 – can be substantially improved. They have assembled a field and will provide the pacing to make that happen in this year’s race.
Australian 10,000m record holder Ben St. Lawrence will spearhead the pacers endeavouring to pilot the leading male runners through the first 25km on pace to break the men’s record. Corresponding assistance should see the leading women – including Harun Haji – through half-way on the required pace.
“We want to see the records broken this year,” race director Wayne Larden said on Friday, “and we think we have the depth in both fields for that to happen.”
Felix Kiprotich looks the pick of the men’s field. The 30-year-old Kenyan runner comes with strong current form. He recorded his personal best – 2:05:33 – in winning Korea’s Daegu marathon this April, so he is fast and in a winning mood. He also brings consistency, having four sub-2:07 times on his c.v.
Kiprotich has bettered 2:07 in four of the past five years and ran sub-2:08 in the only year he did not. He is also familiar with the region, his best performances all coming in Asia.
Elijah Kemboi won last year’s Sydney race by over two minutes in 2:13:33. Before last year he had run sub-2:10 for the previous six years. Besides his win in Sydney, he was second in Linz and won in Macao, so his consistency remains at a high level. Another Kenyan, Kiprotich Kirui, has bettered 2:10 each of the past three years including a 2:09:05 for third place in Madrid earlier this year.
Japanese runners have a good recent record in Sydney, despite usually not arriving with the strongest credentials among the elite runners. Satoru Sasaki was third in the always-strong Fukuoka marathon in 2015 in his PB 2:08:56 and finished eighth there last year in 2:11:40. He and younger compatriot Ryo Kuchimachi – 2:13:30 in Tokyo this year – will bear watching.
Kenyan duo Stellah Barsosio and Josephine Chepkoech head the elite athletes in the women’s field.
Each comes with strong recent form. Barsosio was second in this year’s Rotterdam marathon in her fastest career performance of 2:23:36. The 26-year-old was fifth in Paris the previous year and also boasts a half-marathon best of 1:09:31.
Chepkoech, 30, is a little faster than her compatriot over the half distance, with a best of 1:08:53. That dates back to 2013, however, but her 2:25:20 performance in the Barcelona marathon earlier this year suggests she remains a strong contender.
Harun Haji holds the race record set in 2017, the second time in succession she triumped in Sydney. In both victories, she broke away in Centennial Park significantly before the half-way point where the tree cover and bends in the road make it relatively easy to “disappear” from the chasers. She does not have compelling domestic form coming into the race, but it will be interesting to see whether she, or any of her rivals, adopt similar tactics.
Ethiopian pair Hirut Alemayehu and Gebeyanesh Ayele will also be in the hunt. Ayele has a personal best of 2:26:54 from Hengshui just one year ago, while Alemayehu’s best is 2:30:09. Both have half-marathon bests of just over 70 minutes, so need to be respected.
Tejita Daba, Bahrain, and Bornes Kitur, third in Osaka this year and with a 2:24:19 PB from Prague last year, are also more than capable of winning in a very even women’s field.
The marathon, and other events in the Running Festival, will be telecast live on Network Ten with commentary from Ian Cohen, Steve Moneghetti and Steve Ovett, and shown online on the Sydney Running Festival Facebook page.
Len Johnson for the IAAF