Ding Changqin at the press conference for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Guiyang 2015 (© Getty Images)
Local favourite Ding Changqin and Kenya’s Michael Kiprop Tiony will be looking to defend their titles at the 2016 Chongqing International Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (20).
The 26-year-old Ding, hailing from China’s Guizhou Province, trimmed more than three minutes off her personal best to win the Chongqing Marathon in 2:26:54 last year.
Although that winning mark was rather short of the course record of 2:22:41 set by countrywoman Wang Jiali in 2012, it was the best marathon result achieved by any Chinese female runner last season.
In the five-year history of the Chongqing International Marathon, local runners have claimed three titles in women’s race and such dominance is likely to be maintained this year since the race will also used as the only Olympic trial event by the host nation.
Like Ding, most of the country’s elite runners have been preparing to fight for a berth on the Rio 2016 Olympics Game team.
The 26-year-old Zhang Yingying could be a big threat to Ding’s domestic supremacy.
Zhang is the fastest woman on paper in the field with 2:22:38 from 2008 when winning at the Xiamen International Marathon. She was also the winner of 2013 Beijing Marathon.
Last year’s Chongqing Marathon runner-up, He Yinli, 2011 Beijing Marathon winner Wei Xiaojie (who has a best of 2:28:05) as well as their compatriot Wang Xueqin (best of 2:25:53) are also considered as serious contenders to take the top prize.
Among the foreigners in the women’s race, there are only two sub 2:30 runners including Ethiopia’s Azalech Masresha (best of 2:25:34) and Kenya’s 39-year-old veteran Alice Chelangat Ngerechi (2:26:36) but both of them are not in their prime as neither managed to dip under 2:30 last season.
Tiony clocked 2:13:34 to win the men’s race in 2015 but he has a best of 2:09:45, set when he finished fifth in Xiamen in 2012.
Qatar’s Essa Ismail Rashed, 29, has a best of 2:07:54 set when finishing fourth at the 2014 Amsterdam Marathon, although his best mark last season was just a modest 2:14:06 at the Seoul Marathon.
Ethiopia’s Workneh Tesfa was the winner of 2014 Yellow River Estuary International Marathon in China. He took more than a minute from his previous PB to win at the 2015 Marrakech Marathon in 2:08:51.
The organizers have also gathered another five sub-2:10 runners in the men’s field including Tanzania’s Alphonce Felix Simbu, who has just set a best of 2:09:25 to finish third in Otsu, Japan, two weeks ago as well as Kenya’s Julius Muriuki Wahome, who has a best of 2:09:08 from 2013.
With this array of talent, it seems that course record of 2:10:33 set by Kenya’s Cosmas Kemboi in 2012 could be vulnerable on Sunday, even if Wang's women's mark might be a little out of reach.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF