Elijah Kemboi takes the Kosice Peace Marathon title (© Kosice Peace Marathon organisers)
No less than 17,000 runners will gather in the Spanish capital on Sunday to take part in the 36th Rock ’n’ Roll Madrid Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday.
The altitude of Madrid, which is 695m above the sea level, and the undulating profile of its course has meant that the course records remain at a relatively modest 2:10:58 and 2:32:04 but the fields assembled for Sunday provide the prospect of some realistic revisions of these marks.
In the men’s race, there will be a crop of Kenyan representatives, including the experienced Thomson Cherogony, who has successively placed first, second and third over the last three years in Madrid.
The 34-year-old will be eager to continue making the podium but faces a strong challenge in his bid to regain his title from five men who have run under 2:10, including his compatriot Elijah Kemboi.
Kemboi will be running his third Marathon in barely six months following a personal best of 2:07:51 in Kosice for fourth place last October, a race he won in 2011, and then a 2:10:03 time in Mumbai to when finishing second in the Indian race in late January.
Abraham Chelanga’s career best of 2:08:43 dates from 2009, but he has been running consistently 2:10 times every year since 2010 and could also be a factor.
Watch out also for other Kenyans in the guise of the 25-year-old Nixon Kurgat, the author of a couple of sub-2:09 runs in the 2011 Carpi Marathon and last year in Milan.
Into the bargain, Julius Chepkwony ran a personal best of 2:09:09 at last October’s Marathon Eindhoven.
However, the fastest ever athlete on the start line on Sunday will be Francis Kiprop, who excelled in Berlin 2009 when he came second in what is still his personal best of 2:07:04. His more recent times have been a little more modest but Spanish athletics fans remember him finishing third in Madrid with 2:11:50 two years ago.
The large Kenyan contingent also comprises Mark Tanui, who was fourth last year, and the in-form Robert Ndiwa, who had a fine win in the Verona Half Marathon in 62:03 in February.
Nyasango the best bet to beat the Kenyans?
Trying to deny Kenyans the top spot there will be a powerful triumvirate of Zimbabwe’s Cuthbert Nyasango, Rwanda’s Robert Kajuga and Erhiopia’s Herpasa Negasa.
The latter is only 20 and will be running just his second Marathon after his promising debut earlier this year in Dubai when he clocked 2:10:51.
As for Nyasango, the Madrid-based 30-year-old is arguably one of the men to beat as he finished seventh at the London 2012 Olympics Games, where he ran 2:12:08 time. He improved his personal best to 2:11:48 at the Fukuoka Marathon last December.
Kajuga will be making his Marathon debut but took part in the Olympics over 10000m and finished 12th at the 2012 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Kavarna, Bulgaria, last October.
The Spanish challenge will be led by Carlos Castillejo, fresh from his 27:57:92 10000m win at the national championships three weeks ago and Rafael Iglesias, who has a best of 2:10:44.
The women’s race includes Morocco’s in-form Malika Asahssah, who has tackled the Half Marathon event no fewer than four times in 2013, topped by personal best of 69:13 in Rome seven weeks ago.
Asahssah, now 30, should be challenged by Ethiopia’s two-time Madrid Marathon winner Desta Tadesse, who triumphed in 2010 and 2011 and ran a personal best of 2:31:44 in Mumbai in January.
Her fellow Ethiopian, Gezhasting Hunduma Gemeda, will be making her Marathon debut in the 42.195m but has good credentials after finishing third in the Addis Abeba Half Marathon last year.
The Russian pair of Alena Samokhvalova, with a best of 2:28:43, and Nina Podnebesnova (2:31:37) could also be in contention while the Spanish hopes will rest on Vanessa Veiga, who has a best of 2:32:57.
For the fourth time in a row, an additional 10km race will take place alongside the Marathon and Spain’s former European champions Jesús Espana and Arturo Casado will start as the joint favourites.
In addition, a Half Marathon event will be contested for the first time simultaneously to the Marathon and 10km races, leading to an overall figure of over 26,000 entrants on the day.
Weather forecasters predict a sunny day with temperatures ranging between 9 and 13 degrees Celsius by the time of the event.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF