Volha Mazuronak of Belarus at the 2016 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
Defending champion Elias Kemboi of Kenya and Volha Mazuronak of Belarus will start as the runners to beat at the 38th Vodafone Istanbul Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (13).
The men’s field includes nine runners who have clocked under 2:10 for the distance, and seven others who have run faster than 2:15. Kemboi, 32, has a 2:07:04 lifetime best to his credit from 2010. Last year Kemboi prevailed in 2:11:17.
Another athlete who is no stranger to the course is 28-year-old Evans Kiplagat of Azerbaijan who’s competed in the Istanbul Marathon twice before, finishing second last year. Kiplagat, who was 28th at the Rio 2016 Olympic marathon in August, has a 2:09:22 best from Vienna in 2011.
Ethiopian Tariku Jufar brings plenty of big race experience to the line. The 32-year-old, who has a lifetime best of 2:06:51, won the Beirut 2011, Beijing 2012, and Houston 2012 marathons and was third in Istanbul in 2007, Hamburg in 2008, Los Angeles in 2009 and Mumbai in 2011. He will be hoping for a better placing in Istanbul this year.
Other Ethiopian runners in the mix include Berhanu Gedefa (2:08:03), 20-year-old Tola Shura Kitata (2:08:53) and Tujuba Beyu Megersa, who was fourth in Rome this year.
Kenya also comes armed with Moses Cheruiyot Mosop, winner of the Chicago Marathon and runner-up at the Boston Marathon in 2011, who has a 2:05:03 personal best from 2012.
Oleksandr Sitkovskiy of Belarus, who was 20th in the Olympic marathon, will also toe the line.
The host country’s hopes ride on the shoulders of Kaan Kigen Ozbilen, the former Kenyan Mike Kigen, who was third in Seoul in March, with a 2:06:10 European record.
Mazuronak's post-Rio follow-up in the spotlight - women’s race
The women’s race will feature three women who have run 2:25 or better and four who have dipped under 2:29.
After an impressive 2016 season, Mazuronak will start as a strong candidate for the win. The 27-year-old arrives with a best of 2:23:54 that she achieved with her fourth place finish at the London Marathon in April. She then followed up with a fifth place showing at the Olympic marathon in Rio, clocking 2:24:48, 44 seconds behind the winner.
She’ll face a strong challenge from Agnes Jeruto Barsosio who finished third in Seoul eight months ago. The 34-year old Kenyan’s time of 2:24:59 in the Korean capital was 56 seconds shy of her career best back from 2013.
Another strong contender is Ethiopia’s Fatuma Sado. Sado has won a major marathon each year for the last five years. Istanbul is her last chance to raise it to six after Hamburg 2011, Los Angeles 2012, Xiamen 2013, Beijing 2014 and Warsaw 2015. She set her personal best of 2:24:16 when she finished third in Toronto last year.
Two more Ethiopians hope to vie for a podium finish: Rahma Tusa, who won the Rome Marathon this year in 2:28.49, and Sechale Daklassa Adugna, who was third at January’s Houston Marathon with a time 2:28:43.
The field also includes Alemi Tsegaye from Ethiopian who is one of the athletes featured in the documentary film “Town of Runners”.
The local favourite is Sultan Haydar, the national record holder with 2:24:44.
The event offers a unique experience for participants with a course that joins two continents, crossing from Asia to Europe. The race begins on the Asian side of the 15th July Martyrs Bridge and ends with a two kilometre uphill stretch in the historical peninsula of the Sultanahmet district, where the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are located.
Organisers for the IAAF