Barselius Kipyego en route to victory in the 2016 Usti nad Labem half marathon (© Giancarlo Colombo/organisers)
Defending champion Barselius Kipyego and Violah Jepchumba will start as the favourites at the seventh Mattoni Ústí nad Labem Half Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road race, in the north-central Czech city on Saturday (16).
Kipyego, who set the race record with his 59:15 personal best last year, is one of four men in the field who have dipped under the one-hour mark for the distance. The others are Kenyan Kenneth Keter, who clocked 59:48 last year; Lahbabi Aziz of Morocco who ran 59:25 in 2014; and another Kenyan, Solomon Kirwa Yego, who clocked 58:44 last year on the fast Ostia course.
Yego has the best time of the entrants this season at 59:50 from February's Ras Al Khaimah race where he finished fourth. The 30-year-old impressed at the Paris Marathon two months later where he clocked a 2:07:12 lifetime best to finish fourth.
Kipyego, 24, clocked 1:00:47 in his only half marathon this year, finishing fourth in Prague in April. Keter ran 1:01:05 in Ras Al Khaimah in February, where he finished eighth and Lahbabi 1:02:17 in Istanbul in April.
Ismail Juma of Tanzania and Kenyans Josphat Kiprop Kiptis and Josphat Kimutai Tanui, with 1:00:09, 1:00:21 and 1:00:38 bests respectively, should be in the hunt as well.
Jepchumba, 26, leads the women's field. The Bahraini is one of history's fastest women over 10km and the half marathon, with 30:05 and 1:05:22 lifetime bests to rank second and fifth over the distances all-time. Both performances came in the same race, when she finished second to Joyciline Jepkosgei at the Prague Half Marathon on 1 April. She was nearly as fast at last weekend's Birell Prague 10km, where she clocked 30:25 to finish third behind yet another world record run by her former compatriot Jepkosgei.
Others in the hunt include Lucy Cheruiyot, the runner-up last year at 1:08:17 and Yvonne Jelagat, whose current personal best stands at 1:08:19. Kenyans Stacy Jepkemboi Ndiwa and Lydia Rotich, who've clocked 1:10:08 and 1:10:57, could play a role as well.
Eva Vrabcova-Nyvltova, who brings a 1:11:06 best to the start line, leads the domestic charge.
The race will be broadcast live on ČT Sport and online at www.runczech.com starting from 14:50 local (GMT+2).
Bob Ramsak and organisers for the IAAF