The Zurich Maraton de Sevilla – an IAAF Silver Label Road Race for the first time, after carrying a Bronze Label for three years – will take place on Sunday (19) and offers one of the flattest circuits worldwide, with barely 10 metres between the highest and lowest points.
Ethiopia’s Tebalu Zawude should be regarded as one of the hot favourites in the men’s race. The 29-year-old has not competed this year yet but enjoyed a fine 2016 season with a 27:25.10 10,000m time to his credit. His last marathon outing took place in Seoul in 2015 when he was victorious in 2:08:46, just 90 seconds shy of his PB.
Zawude will have the company of fellow Ethiopian Azmeraw Mengistu, who will make his second ever effort over the classic distance after his 2:12:27 debut in Cannes last November. Mengistu, still 24, has PBs of 27:33.82 and 1:00:48 for 10,000m and the half marathon.
The Kenyan contingent will be headed by Nicholas Kipkemboi. He holds a 2:06:33 career best set in Dubai back in 2013, but he has not gone close to that kind of performance in recent years and his best last year was 2:12:48.
Nixson Kurgat’s outcome on Sunday remains a question mark as he has not raced since October 2015 when clocking 2:10:01 in Chuncheon, the same venue of his 2:07:14 PB from the previous season. Kipkemboi Kipsang is the third Kenyan in the field with a sub-2:10 best, while Gilbert Maina (2:10:33) and Douglas Chebii (2:11:26) should also fight for a top-five spot.
The main pacemakers will be of a high calibre in the guise of Spain’s 2006 European 5000m champion Jesús España and Eritrea’s Amanuel Mesel, a 2:08:17 performer. Their task will consist of reaching the halfway point in 1:03:45 to give the field a chance of breaking the 2:08:14 course record set last year by Cosmas Kiplimo Lagat.
González poised to strike again
Spain’s Paula González will try to defend her title in the women’s race. Her performance last year – which was also her debut over the distance – earned her a berth on Spain’s Olympic team, but unfortunately González was unable to compete in Rio due to injury.
Morocco’s Kaoutar Boulaid finished runner-up last year, barely eight seconds behind the Spaniard, and will be looking to avenge that defeat.
Yet the Spain-based Boulaid won’t likely be the toughest opponent for the Spaniard as there will be a strong group of Ethiopians with sub-2:30 PBs including Tizita Terecha Dida, Workitu Ayanu, Lemlem Berha and Bekelech Daba. Kenya’s Salome Biwott and Pauline Wangui will also be in contention.
In addition to González, European hopes will rest on Britain’s Lily Partridge, who will be making her debut over 26.2 miles. As part of her preparation, the 25-year-old Briton clocked 1:12:12 at last month’s Santa Pola Half Marathon.
The first record has already been beaten even before the race gets underway as no fewer than 13,892 entrants from 74 countries will take to the streets, a record number of 20% of the runners coming from overseas and 12% being women.
The marathon will pass several iconic landmarks, including ‘La Giralda’, one of the largest cathedrals in the world, and ‘La Real Maestranza’ bullring or ‘La Torre del Oro’. The finish line is located inside La Cartuja stadium, venue of the 1999 IAAF World Championships. Abel Anton, the world marathon champion on that occasion, will support the event along with 1995 world champion Martín Fiz.
While the summer heat in the city is usually unbearable, the weather at this time of year should be nearly ideal for endurance efforts. Weather forecasters predict a cloudy day, a 50% chance of rain and a temperature between 12-14C at the time of the event.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF