Duncan Koech in action at the Riga Marathon (© Organisers)
Another record assault could be on the slate at the Lattelecom Riga Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (14).
Kenyan Dominic Kangor broke the event record last year with his 2:11:45 run, a time which could find itself under threat on Sunday. The fastest man in the field is Kenyan veteran Duncan Koech who boasts a 2:07:53 lifetime best. That was set in Cologne more than four years ago, but he has run 2:11:18 as recently as April 2016 and won his last marathon, clocking 2:12:59 in Munster, Germany last September.
He's also no stranger to the streets of Riga, winning here in 2013 and producing back-to-back third-place finishes in 2014 and 2015. Sunday's race will be his first marathon in 2017.
The record also seems well within reach for Sintayehu Legese, the 27-year-old Ethiopian who produced his 2:11:07 career best in Paris two years ago. His fastest outing last year was a 2:11:20 run at altitude in Bloemfontein, South Africa, where he finished second. He too has yet to race this year.
On paper, Richard Bett Kiprono with a 2:12:04 personal best, Joseph Munywoki at 2:10:21, and Hosea Kipkemboi with 2:12:05, could conceivably play a role, but the Kenyan trio's form arriving in Riga is a bit of a mystery.
Among this weekend's marathon debutants, Kenyan Bethwel Chemweno, who has a 1:01:37 half marathon best, seems best prepared to make an impression over the classic distance.
Local eyes will fall on Valerijs Zolnerovics, the national record-holder at 2:14:33, who will be gunning for the national title and a finish in the top five.
The top runners in the women's race will be targetting the race record of 2:36:50 set by Tigiste Teshome of Ethiopia in 2014.
The fastest woman in the field is Bekelech Daba, another Ethiopian. The 25-year-old set her 2:29:50 lifetime best in Nagoya in 2016, and more recently clocked 2:31:47 at the Seville Marathon in February where she finished third.
Kikuyo Tsuzaki of Japan also has the credentials to mount a record assault. The 27-year-old also clocked her 2:32:23 personal best in Nagoya last year, but was nearly seven minutes slower in the same race in mid-March.
Devina Jepkosgei of Kenya returns after a runner-up finish last year, and could use her familiarity with the course to her advantage. The 33-year-old has run 13 marathons and brings a 2:34:21 best to the line in her first race of the year.
Among debutantes, 29-year-old Eunice Mumbua Kioko of Kenya might bring the best momentum. She finished third in her three road races this year, clocking respectable 32:07 and 33:52 performances in Brunssum, Netherlands, and Wurzburg, Germany, in April and a personal best 1:10:31 in a half marathon in Paderborn, Germany, on 15 April.
The local favorite will be Anita Kažemāka, who competed at the 2015 World Championships. The 26-year-old who was fourth in this race last year and will race for the first time this year on Sunday.
Organisers are expecting a record number of participants in the marathon, with about 2000 runners from more than 60 countries registered. More than 30,000 runners are expected to take part in the weekend's schedule of races which also includes a half marathon, 10km, 6km and kids fun run.
The marathon, which has grown into one the country's most popular sporting events, was named Sports Event of the Year for 2016 by the Latvian Olympic Committee.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF