Lucy Mawia Muli on her way to winning in Bydgoszcz (© Pawel Skraba)
Burundi’s Rodrigue Kwizera and Kenya's Lucy Mawia will be the star names at the Cross Internacional de la Constitución, the seventh Golden leg of the this season’s World Athletics Cross Country Tour, to be held in Alcobendas on the outskirts of Madrid on Sunday (27).
Mebrahtu aims to challenge Kwizera
Kwizera was an overwhelming winner last year but the 22-year-old Burundian was later disqualified for not wearing the vest of his Spanish club, Playas de Castellón, and so he will be eager to make amends on Sunday.
He opened his cross country season in mid-October with a runner-up place in Castellón behind his training mate Thierry Ndikumwenayo. The following week he won in Amorebieta, then two weeks later clocked 27:24 to win a downhill 10km road race in Alcobendas. He followed that with a third-place finish in Atapuerca and a runner-up spot in Seville.
Kwizera, who won the Cross Country Tour last season, will have Eritrea's Merhawi Mebrahtu as his stiffest opponent. The 19-year-old is the world U20 5000m silver medallist and already this month has raced three times in Spain; he finished second in Soria, then had to settle for fourth in Atapuerca and fifth in Seville against strong opposition.
With most of Spain’s top distance runners preparing for the European Cross Country Championships on 11 December, European U20 steeplechase champion Pol Oriach and Sergio Paniagua, who finished eighth in Atapuerca, appear to be the best local hopes.
Mawia the woman to beat
The women's 8.1km contest will bring together Kenya's Lucy Mawia, Burundi's Francine Niyomukunzi and Italy's Nadia Battocletti.
The former has competed extensively on Spanish ground over the past two seasons and has managed podium places in Soria, Alcobendas, and Atapuerca. Mawia, who also won in Bydgoszcz last month, will try to maintain her momentum on Sunday against Niyomukunzi, whom she beat over 10km in Rome earlier this month, 31:50 to 32:55. Niyomukunzi got the upper hand over 5000m one month before, though, setting a PB of 15:19.20 to beat Mawia by three seconds.
This will be Battocleltti’s last race before heading to the European Cross, where she will defend her U23 title on home soil. The 22-year-old was sixth in Atapuerca two weeks ago, 25 seconds behind Mawia, but the Olympic 5000m finalist should be a factor on Sunday.
Spain's best hope looks set to be Laura Luengo, who was third in Soria and ninth in Seville earlier this month.
Notable past winners here include Eritrea's former world half marathon record holder Zersenay Tadese (2005), Kenya’s Joseph Ebuya (2007 and 2010), Ethiopia’s world marathon champion Tamirat Tola (2015), Uganda’s world half marathon record-holder Jacob Kiplimo (2018), Portugal's 1993 world cross-country champion Albertina Dias (1996), Ethiopia's Meselech Melkamu (2005 and 2006), Vivian Cheruiyot (2009) and fellow Kenyan Linet Masai (2008 and 2015).
The weather forecast predicts a sunny and windless day with temperatures ranging between 12-14C.
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics