Mosinet Geremew will return to the Yangzhou Jianzhen International Half Marathon on Sunday (22) aiming to maintain his dominance at the IAAF Gold Label road race which the 26-year-old has won three titles in a row since 2015.
Geremew set a Chinese all-comers’ record of 59:52 in Yangzhou in 2015, five months after he registered a career best of 59:11 in New Delhi.
Although his times in 2016 and 2017 were outside 60 minutes, the Ethiopian’s powerful finishing sprint has carried him to two narrow victories in Yangzhou over the past two years. Last year, he emerged from a four-man contest and took a thrilling win by only 15 hundredths of a second.
The in-form Geremew has enjoyed a successful start to 2018. He trimmed more than two minutes off his marathon personal best in January to win the Dubai Marathon with a world-leading 2:04:00 to break the course record.
On Sunday Geremew will face four other runners with sub-60-minute PBs so he will have to be at his best to retain his title.
Bahrain’s Abraham Cheroben, who finished third in Yangzhou last year, could be Geremew’s biggest threat.
The 25-year-old set an Asian record and world-leading mark of 58:40 from his victory in Copenhagen last September, making him the third fastest man in history over the distance.
Cheroben went on to prove his worth last month when he clocked 1:00:22 to take the silver medal at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships Valencia 2018.
Kenya’s Jorum Lumbasi Okombo is another man to watch. He finished as the runner-up behind Cheroben in Copenhagen with a PB of 58:48 and came close to that mark in February when he clocked 59:36 to finish fourth in Ras al-Khaimah. At the World Half Marathon Championships, however, he wasn’t quite at his best and finished 18th in 1:01:34.
The entry list also includes Ethiopian teenager Andamlak Belihu who clocked 59:51 on his debut at the distance last year to finish second in New Delhi, and his compatriot Asefa Mengstu, whose PB of 59:54 was also set in New Delhi before clocking 2:04:06 to finish fourth at the Dubai Marathon this year.
In the women’s race, defending champion Sutume Asefa will also face tough challenge.
The 23-year-old outraced fellow Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh in the last kilometre to win in 1:10:30 last year. The duo will face each other again in Yangzhou and both of them are in even better shape compared to 12 months ago.
Asefa bettered 68 minutes for the first time in her career when she clocked 1:07:54 to win at the Stramilano Half Marathon last month. Olympic 5000m finalist Yeshaneh trimmed one-and-a-half minutes off her PB to take the top honours in Istanbul in 1:06:22 earlier this month.
Kenya’s Joan Melly will also arrive in Yangzhou with high spirits. The 27-year-old has twice bettered her PB in 2018. She first clocked 1:05:37 to finish fourth in Ras al-Khaimah in February and went on to sizzle to a 1:05:04 victory at the Prague Half Marathon two weeks ago.
Her winning mark in the Czech capital makes her the fourth-fastest woman in history and the fastest entrant on the start list.
Melly’s compatriot Mary Wacera is another sub-1:07 runner in the field. The two-time world half marathon medallist achieved her PB of 1:06:29 when winning in Houston two year ago and she came close to that mark in January, also in Houston, when clocking 1:06:50 to finish third.
Birhane Dibaba’s PB of 1:07:47 was set in Yangzhou in 2016 when she finished second to course record-holder Peres Jepchirchir. Boosted by her marathon PB of 2:19:51 from her victory in Tokyo in February, the 24-year-old Ethiopian will be looking to upgrade her medal from two years ago in the historic Chinese city.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF