Previews16 Mar 2012

Course record holder and defending champion return to Seoul - Preview


James Kwambai winning the 2011 JoongAng Seoul Marathon (© Sean Wallace Jones)

Course record holder Sylvester Teimet of Kenya and defending champion Abderrahim Goumri of Morocco will return to clash at the Seoul International Marathon on Sunday (18).

The Seoul International Marathon is an IAAF Golden Label Road Race.

This race has an 83-year history dating back to March 1931, when the first Dong-A race was held. It was given its present name several decades later, but people in Korea still know it better as a Dong-A Marathon and are going to celebrate its 83 anniversary this weekend.

This year the international elite field includes 39 men and 17 women, while the domestic elite fields reach as high as 134 for the men and 36 for the women.    

The men’s course record of 2:06:49 was set by Teimet in 2010, who improved the previous record, set by three-time winner Gert Thys from South Africa in 2004, by 17 seconds. The women’s course standard of 2:19:51, set by China’s Chunxiu Zhou, has remained unbeatable since 2006.  

This is the only marathon in Seoul giving the participants a chance to run through the downtown of Korea’s capital, with a 11 million population. This point to point race starts at Gwanghwamun Plaza and finishes at Jamsil Olympic Main Stadium.

Men’s race –

The men’s contest pits defending champion Goumri, 35, against a huge field of 25 runners from Kenya, many of whom became prize-winners of different Korean marathons in recent years. Temiet is of course well familiar with the course and the atmosphere of the race, and has got a good chance to break the course record which is also his personal best. His half marathon PB is 1:01:21 from Gothenburg 2008. Goumri set his personal best 2:05:30, finishing third at the London Marathon in 2008, won the Seoul Marathon in 2011 crossing in 2:08:11 in cold and rainy weather and finished the Philadelphia Half Marathon in 1:01:42 the same year.

Among Kenyan competitors is James Kipsang Kwambai, 29, who has PBs  of 2:04:27 from Rotterdam 2009 and 1:00:01 from the Den Haag Half Marathon in 2011. He won JoongAng Seoul Marathon 2011 in 2:08:50.

Another notable runner is 22-year-old Eliud Kiptanui with a PB 2:05:39 set in Prague 2010 and a 2:09:08 finish time in Rotterdam 2011. His compatriots Philip Kimutai Sanga (PB 2:06:07, Frankfurt and 1:01:09 Porto Half Marathon, both in 2011) and 27-year old Nathaniel Kipkosgey (PB 2:06:28 Eindhoven and 1:01:24 in Rabat Half Marathon, both 2011) can play a role in the contest.

Another Kenyan to watch is Elijah Keitany, 29, (PB 2:06:41 in Amsterdam 2009). He ran the same marathon two years later and finished only 12 seconds behind his personal best. Another notable runner is Charles Munyeki Kiama, 25, with PB 2:07:06 in Chicago Marathon 2009 and 2:08:04 shown in Eindhoven. Jonathan Kosgei Kipkorir, 29 (PB 2:07:31, Paris Marathon 2009) who finished with 2:11:14 in Chuncheon Marathon 2011, can also be a threat. Other Kenyan runners to watch: Felix Keny, 25 (PB 2:07:36 Barcelona Marathon 2010 and 2:09:25 Daegu 2011); experienced Jason Mbote (PB 2:07:37 Seoul International Marathon 2008 and 2:11:23 in Hanover 2011); Mose Kigen Kipkosgei, 29, PB 2:07:45 set in Dubai this year; William Chebon Chebor, 29, with PBs 2:08:21 set in Turin and 1:01:10 in Udine Half Marathon last year; Wilson Loyene Erupe, 26, (PB 2:09:23 set in Gyeongju 2011); Edwin Kimaiyo, 26 (PB 2:09:50, Berlin 2011); Isaak Macharia Wanjohi, 31 (PB 2:07:16 set in Dubai 2008 and 2:09:43 finish in Vienna 2011).    

This impressive Kenyan presence can be shaken by a young runner-up from the Seoul Marathon last year, Korean Jeon Jin Hyec, 21, who finished with PB 2:09:28; Russian Oleg Kulkov, 34, PB 2:10:13 set in the same race as third finish time. Another Russian runner to watch is Andrey Grigoriev, 36, (PB 2:10:25, Frankfurt 2011).

Women’s contest -

Last year’s runner up Yanan Wei, 30, from China (PB 2:23:13, Seoul Marathon 2007) is returning to move up a notch from 2011. She finished in 2:27:13 and is striving to improve her result. She can expect tough competition from Ethiopians headed by Askale Tafa Magarsa, 27, whose PB 2:21:31 was set in Berlin 2008. Last year she finished the London Marathon in 2:25:24 and passed through Chicago Marathon half point in 1:11:45. One more young Ethiopian runner, Tadese Feyse, 23 (PBs 2:25:20 in Eindhoven 2011 and 1:08:44 in Rabat 2011) who already clocked 1:09:15 in Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon this year.

Others to watch: Kenyan Flomena Chepchichir, 30 (PBs 2:24:21 in Frankfurt and 1:08:22 in Zwolle half marathon, both in 2011); Ukranians Tatian Filonyuk, 27, (PB 2:26:24 in Rome 2010) and Olena Burkovska, 30 (PB 2:28:31, Berlin 2010); Russians Elza Kireeva, 32 (PB 2:28:02 Dublin 2010) who finished in 2:29:41 in Vienna 2011 and Alena Samokhvalova, 31 (PB 2:28:43 Frankfurt  2011); and Serena Burla, 29, from the U.S (PB 1:10:08 in Houston 2010).

More than 20,000 runners, including about 1000 foreign participants from 30 countries are expected to toe the start line at 8:00 on Sunday morning. The weather is expected to be cool, 5- 10 C with morning fog.

Prize money in 2012 will be awarded in men’s and women’s international division to the top eight finishers. The winner will receive from $40,000 up to $80,000 depending on the finish time better or worse than 2:24:17 in women’s division and better or worse than 2:10:36 in men’s division.

Course record bonuses are on offer to both men and women, ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 for the women, and from $20,000 to $200,000 for the men depending on their finish time. A World record bonus of $300,000 is also on offer.

Yelena Kurdyumova and Sergey Porada for the IAAF

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