Ruti Aga, Fantu Jimma Eticha and Doris Changeiywo at the pre-race press conference in Vienna (© Victah Sailer / organisers)
Kenya's Levy Matebo Omari will start as the man to beat while an impressive women’s field will chase a 16-year-old course record at the Vienna City Marathon on Sunday (10), the 33rd edition of the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
Omari, the fastest man in the field at 2:05:16, will be under pressure not only by a training partner but also by a quartet of debutants who are coming to the Austrian capital hoping to spring a surprise. But Omari, who clocked his career best when finishing second at the 2011 Frankfurt Marathon, said he’s ready to face that challenge.
"From 2012 onwards I suffered from some stomach problems during training and when competing," he said. "I am well prepared now and I hope there will be no problems on Sunday. If the weather will be good then I want to run 2:06 which would be a good start for this year."
On paper, Omari’s training partner Robert Chemosin is closest, courtesy of his 2:08:05 debut from Warsaw one year ago.
"It was raining there, so in better conditions I hope to run faster," said the 27-year-old Chemosin, who also has a pair of sub-60 minute half marathons to his credit.
Fellow Kenyan Suleiman Simotwo also hopes to improve both on his 2015 fifth place finish in Vienna and on his personal record of 2:08:48 set in Frankfurt, which was also last year.
"Last time in Vienna I had some stomach problems in the final part of the race. I know that the Vienna City Marathon is a very nice race and I hope to further improve here. It might help that one of my training partners, Raymond Choge, is in the race as well."
Choge is one of four debutants who are expected to challenge for top honours and while he’s largely unheralded, compatriots David Kogei (personal best of 59:46) and Francis Lagat (1:01:28) bring solid half marathon credentials to the start line.
Ethiopia's Merkebu Birke, another debutante in Vienna, has a half marathon best of 1:00:41.
"Sunday will be a big day for me," said Kogei, who ran as a pacemaker in Vienna last year. "I know quite a bit of the course, which could be helpful.“ Kogei was also the chief pacemaker for last year’s Berlin Marathon, assisting eventual winner Eliud Kipchoge for 29 kilometres. "This was a good step towards my marathon debut."
Eticha and Shone targeting women's course record
While the race organisers aren’t expecting an assault on the 2:05:41 men’s course record, the 2:23:47 mark set by Italy’s Maura Viceconte in 2000 might be within reach in the women’s contest.
Among those leading the charge will be Ethiopia's Fantu Jimma Eticha, who clocked a personal best of 2:26:14 in Dubai last year and came close in January after finishing third in Xiamen in 2:26:53.
"For me it is more important to achieve a personal best than to win," she said. "I am well prepared and I know that Vienna usually offers very good conditions for racing. So my aim is to run 2:23."
Four other women will likely follow a similar pace, including fellow Ethiopian Guteni Shone, the fastest in the field at 2:23:32 set in Houston last year where she finished second.
Kenyan Doris Changeiywo is also upbeat on the eve of her second marathon. The 31-year-old won her debut in difficult conditions in Singapore last December, clocking 2:44:26, but is expecting a much quicker run this weekend.
"I found it quite tough to adapt to the marathon after running cross country and track before," said Changeiywo, who has a 1:08:49 half marathon personal best. "In Singapore I just wanted to finish, nothing else. It was very humid there. Now in Vienna it is about running much faster. I will go with the Ethiopians on Sunday."
Others to watch include Meseret Kitata (PB 2:27:17) of Ethiopia who is targeting a sub-2:25 run and her compatriot Ruti Aga who will be making her debut. The 22-year-old improved her half marathon best to 1:08:09 in Houston in January and more recently won the Lisbon Half Marathon in 1:09:19.
"I know that the climate here is good for marathon running," commented Aga. "And of course Haile Gebrselassie ran in Vienna - so that is why I decided to run my debut here."
Jorg Wenig (organisers) for the IAAF