Peter Wanjiru wins at the 2015 Edinburgh Marathon (© Lesley Martin / organisers)
Kenya’s Peter Wanjiru, will be aiming to become just the second runner to win the back-to-back titles at the Edinburgh Maratho when he defends his title at the 15th edition of the Scottish race, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (29).
With a deep pool of Kenyans to supplement a number of European arrivals for Scotland’s largest road event, the course record of 2:15:26 – which was set 11 years ago by Wanjiru’s compatriot Zachary Kihara in the second of his two victories – is also set to come under attack.
Wanjiru, now 34, overcame strong winds to triumph 12 months ago in 2:19:34 by capitalising on the turmoil from an overly-quick first half of the course, pulling away from local contender Neil Renault and 2014 runner-up Japhet Koech to win by almost five minutes and come home ahead of a 12,000-strong field.
“I want to win again,” said Wanjiru, who can boast of a best over the classic distance of 2:12:11 from when he won the 2012 Krakow Marathon. “It is a flat course but the conditions are tough. But I like how I am feeling now.”
Koech has also returned for a fourth successive year to take on a course that begins in the ancient heart of Scotland’s capital city and takes a gentle route towards its adjoining coast line, before ending up in historic Musselburgh, home to what is reputed to be the oldest golf course in the world.
Another Kenyan, Boaz Kiprono, may be the likeliest rival to Wanjiru after his victory in the 2015 Bournemouth Marathon, although Ukraine’s 37-year-old Oleksandr Sitkovskyy, currently preparing to better his 12th place at the London 2012 Olympic Games in Rio this coming August, will also be a strong contender after lowering his personal best to 2:09:11 in Marrakesh last year.
None will have greater recent marathon experience, however, than the USA’s Chris Zablocki, who will be running the distance for a remarkable seventh time in 2016.
The 25-year-old, who is currently completing his medical qualifications in southern England, was 30th at the US Olympic Trials race in February when jet lag doomed his hopes.
However, he has high hopes of being a contender for a place on the podium here, although this race come barely four weeks after coming fourth at the Belfast Marathon in a time of 2:26:59, compared to his personal best of 2:15:39.
“I know the field is pretty good among the Africans and then there’ll be one or two others,” said the American. “But I know I’ll be able to stay with them until halfway at the very least and then it becomes about who has a better day and has a bit of luck.
“As long as there’s not a little guy sitting behind me the whole time to shelter from the wind, I should have a shot.”
Joan Kigen, the defending champion in the women’s field, will aim to become the first woman to repeat her win in Edinburgh after also taking victory in last year’s Bournemouth Marathon.
Kenyan compatriots Eddah Jepkosgei and Hildah Cheboi may threaten her reign but the quickest in the field is Ukraine’s Olena Burkovska, with the 2012 Olympian having a best of 2:27:07 when winning the Hannover Marathon.
Now 34, Burkovska ran 2:29:45 in last year’s Nagoya Marathon, her last international race. Although that outing was 15 months ago it suggests that the Edinburgh women’s course record of 2:33:34, held by Russia’s Zinaida Semenova since 2005, could also be under threat.
Scottish veteran and former British international Hayley Haining, who finished 12th at the 2014 Commonwealth Games at the age of 42, returns to the marathon following a two-year break to lead domestic hopes.
Mark Woods for the IAAF