Tariku Jufar en route to his 2:06:51 course record in Houston (© Victah Sailer)
Ethiopia is set to conquer the Italian capital once again at Sunday's ACEA Rome Marathon, the 22nd edition of this IAAF Gold Label Road Race, having enjoyed a proud tradition in the Italian capital since the days of Abebe Bikila’s legendary Olympic title run in 1960.
More recently, Ethiopia has dominated the last two editions in both the men’s and women’s races and their runners have arrived well prepared to do so again.
Tariku Jufar is the second fastest man in the field at 2:06:51, set in his 2012 victory in Houston. The 31-year-old, who hails from Debre Zeyit in the Oromia region, also won the Beijing Marathon in 2012 and has notched top-three finishes in Istanbul, Mumbai, Los Angeles, Lake Biwa and Hamburg.
Jufar will take on last year’s Rome Marathon winner Abebe Negewo Degefa, who clocked a lifetime best of 2:08:46 in Beijing 2013; Debebe Tolossa, who ran his career best of 2:07:41 in Houston in 2012; and Adhana Gebretsadik, who has a best of 2:08:35.
The Kenyan challenge will be led by Cheboit Silas, who clocked 2:07:15 in Gyeong in 2014; Ezekiel Omullo, who ran 2:09:19 in Warsaw in 2015; and Robert Kipkemboi Kiplimo, who won the Padua Marathon in 2015 in 2:09:32.
Morocco will be represented by Rachid Kisri who clocked 2:06:48 in Paris in 2009 and is the fastest man in the field.
The leading Italian runners include the popular Rome taxi driver Giorgio Calcaterra, who won three 100km world titles and Martin Dematteis, a member of Italy's the 2015 world mountain running gold medal-winning team.
The favourite in the women’s race is Kenya's Emily Chemutai Ngetich, who registered her 2:25:14 personal best at the Frankfurt Marathon in 2014.
She will take on an Ethiopian trio led by Mulu Diro (personal best of 2:29:10), Metaferiya Zeneba (PB 2:30:08) and Adhana Desalegn (PB 2:31:25). Another notable entry is Julia Andreeva, from Kyrgyzstan, with a best of 2:30:57.
In all, 16,764 runners from 115 countries have entered.
The course this year is similar to last year’s, passing by some of Rome’s most famous monuments. The start is on the Via del Teatro Marcello near Piazza Venezia with the finish on Via IV November in front of the Colosseum.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF