Previews05 Jan 2024

Gebreslase, Alemu and Aga to race in Xiamen


Gotytom Gebreslase wins the Berlin Marathon (© Getty Images)

The C&D Xiamen Marathon, a World Athletics Platinum Label road race, on Sunday (7) will witness the fastest marathon pack ever assembled in China, with 2022 world champion Gotytom Gebreslase heading a stacked field in the women’s race.

The 28-year-old Gebreslase of Ethiopia clocked her personal best of 2:18:11 when claiming the world title in Oregon in July 2022. She also registered another sub-2:20 mark when finishing third at the 2022 Tokyo Marathon in 2:18:18 and took a 2:20:09 victory at the Berlin Marathon in 2021.

Last year, Gebreslase clocked 2:24:34 to grab a silver medal at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23, which remains her last outing over the classic distance.

It will be the first time for Gebreslase to compete in Xiamen, a southeastern Chinese city, and she will be targeting not only the title, but also the course record of 2:19:52 set by her compatriot Mare Dibaba back in 2015.

Fellow Ethiopian Megertu Alemu is the fastest woman on paper with a career best of 2:17:09 achieved last October when finishing third at the Chicago Marathon.

Aside from having the fastest PB of the field, the 26-year-old has shown great consistency in the past two years, registering sub-2:19 marks in all her four races including notching a 2:18:51 victory at the 2022 Seville Marathon and finishing second and third respectively in the 2022 and 2023 London Marathon races.

Ruti Aga, also from Ethiopia, is another serious title contender. The 29-year-old clocked a PB of 2:18:09 to win the Yellow River Estuary Marathon in Dongying, China, last October, improving the Chinese all-comers’ record.

Aga also won the Tokyo Marathon in 2:20:40 in 2019 and has earned three runner-up finishes in major marathon races, including a 2:18:34 second place in the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

Other women to watch in the field include Tanzanian marathon and half marathon record-holder Magdalena Shauri, whose PB of 2:18:41 was set last September when finishing third at the Berlin Marathon, as well as Fatima Ezzahra Gardadi of Morocco, a 2:25:03 performer who claimed the marathon bronze medal at last year’s World Championships in Budapest.

Kipchumba defends title

Defending champion Philimon Kiptoo Kipchumba will face a tough contest in the men’s race, as a total of 12 runners in the field own a career best time faster than the course record of 2:06:19 set by Moses Mosop of Kenya in 2015.

The 25-year-old Kipchumba will arrive in Xiamen with high spirits. He remained unbeaten last year, winning all three of his marathon races. After a 2:10:47 victory in Hong Kong last February, he clocked 2:08:04 to win in Xiamen and continued his winning streak in Shanghai in November with a winning mark of 2:05:35, beating Mosop’s course record in Xiamen to become the Chinese all-comers’ record-holder.

Kenyan half marathon record-holder Kibiwott Kandie is also on the rise. The 27-year-old registered a PB of 2:04:48 to finish sixth in Valencia one month ago and will be pursuing his first ever marathon title in Xiamen.

Ethiopia’s Chalu Deso, 26, is also a formidable competitor. He finished seventh behind Kandie in Valencia last month in 2:05:14 and his career best of 2:04:53 was also achieved in the Spanish city in 2020.

Last year, Deso claimed the Tokyo Marathon title in 2:05:22. He also has marathon titles in Paris and Porto to his name. After outings in Nanjing and Dalian in 2018, the Xiamen Marathon will be Deso’s third race in China.

Philemon Kiplimo of Kenya is another sub-2:05 runner in the field and unlike Kandie and Deso, Kiplimo will arrive in the Chinese coastal city on fresh legs. His last marathon race was contested more than three months ago when he clocked a PB of 2:04:56 to finish eighth in Berlin.

Also toeing the line are several sub-2:06 runners, including Moroccan record-holder Othmane El Goumri, who set a PB of 2:05:12 to finish second in Barcelona last March and went on to win the Sydney Marathon in 2:08:20 six months later.

Vincent Wu for World Athletics

Elite fields

Megertu Alemu (ETH) 2:17:09
Ruti Aga (ETH) 2:18:09
Gotytom Gebreslase (ETH) 2:18:11
Magdalena Shauri (TAN) 2:18:41
Aberu Ayana Mulisa (ETH) 2:21:54
Bekelech Gudeta (ETH) 2:22:56
Zhang Deshun (CHN) 2:24:05
Fatima Ezzahra Gardadi (MAR) 2:25:03
Veronicah Njeri Maina (KEN) 2:26:41
Ftaw Zeray (ETH) 2:29:15

Kibiwott Kandie (KEN) 2:04:48
Chalu Deso (ETH) 2:04:53
Philemon Kiplimo (KEN) 2:04:56
Philemon Rono (KEN) 2:05:00
Marius Kimutai (BRN) 2:05:06
Othmane El Goumri (MAR) 2:05:12
Nobert Kigen (KEN) 2:05:13
Shifera Tamru Aredo (ETH) 2:05:18
Philimon Kiptoo Kipchumba (KEN) 2:05:35
Solomon Kirwa Yego (KEN) 2:05:42
Kenneth Keter (KEN) 2:05:53
Fikre Bekele Tefera (ETH) 2:06:16
Edwin Kiptoo (KEN)
Tesfaye Birhan Nebebew (ETH) 2:06:52
Adane Kebede Gebre (ETH) 2:06:54
Victor Kipchirchir (KEN)
Henok Tesfay Ghebreab (ERI) 2:07:12
Mekonen Alene Belay (ETH) 2:09:19
Tesfaye Deriba (ETH) debut
Kiptanui Shadrack Kipchirchir (KEN) debut