Ethiopia will be looking to add to its success at the ACEA Rome Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label road race, which will celebrate its 24th edition on Sunday (8).
Indeed, in the women’s race, runners from the east African nation have won on nine occasions and look set to continue their proud tradition this year.
Twenty-four year-old Rahma Tusa will be looking to win the women’s race for the third consecutive year after triumphs in 2016 in 2:28:49 and in 2017 in 2:27:21. If she achieves this feat, she would tie her compatriot Firehiwot Dado, who won in the Eternal City consecutive titles in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and went on to win the New York Marathon in 2011. Tusa set her personal best of 2:25:12 in Guangzhou in 2017.
Tusa will face a strong field led by Kenyan runners Sharon Cherop and Angela Tanui and Ethiopia’s Berha Afera Godfay. Cherop finished runner-up in the 2013 Berlin Marathon setting her personal best of 2:22:28 and won the world marathon bronze medal in Daegu 2011. She reached the podium three times in Boston winning in 2012 and finishing third in 2011 and 2013. Tanui set her career best times of 2.26:31 in the marathon in Vienna 2017 and 1:07:16 at the Roma Ostia Half Marathon in 2016.
The line-up also features four more sub-2:30 Ethiopian runners, who could fight for top-three positions: Berha Afera Godfay, with career best times of 2:28:46 in the marathon from Lisbon 2017 and 1:08:32 in the half marathon from Usti nad Labem in 2016; Alemu Meseret Abebayehu, who clocked 2:29:14 in Barcelona 2017; Roba Kenensa Kedir, with a 2:27:12 PB; and Sorome Negash who has clocked 2:29:46. The line-up is completed by Kenyan Risper Jemeli Kimaiyo, who won the IAU World Championships in Doha over the 50 km distance and dipped under 2:30 in the marathon with 2:29:16.
The men’s race is set to be a wide-open competition led by seven runners who dipped under 2:10 during their careers.
Kenya’s Jafred Chirchir Kipchumba and Ethiopia’s Girmay Birhanu lead the field with almost identical personal bests. Kipchumba, a runner from the Keyo District, won the Eindhoven Marathon in 2011 with his personal best of 2:05:48 and also took top honours in Milan in 2010 clocking 2:09:15. Birhanu produced his lifetime best of 2:05:49 in Dubai in 2014 and won two marathons in 2015, Daegu in 2:07:26 and Ottawa in 2:08:14. The race record of 2:07:17, set by Kenyan Benjamin Kiptoo in 2009, could be under threat.
Other runners expected to fight for the podium include Ethiopians Gonfa Dejene Debela, who sports a lifetime best of 2:07:10 set in Eindhoven 2017, Chimdesa Birhanu Gedefa, who clocked a PB 2:08:03 in Houston in 2015, and Shengo Kebede Liyew, who ran his 2:09:53 PB in Dusseldorf in 2013.
The field also includes Kenyans Cosmas Birech, who has a 2:08:45 PB set in Eindhoven last year, and Mathew Kipsaat, who was fourth in this race last year with a 2:09:19 lifetime best.
The course is similar to the past editions, starting at the Via dei Fori Imperiali and ending at Circo Massimo near the Colosseum, and passing more than 500 of the city’s most famous monuments and landmarks.
About 14,100 runners from 130 countries have registered for the marathon. No less than 80,000 amateur runners are expected to take part in the 5 km Fun Run non-competitive race.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF