Netsanet Gudeta Kebede en route to the world half marathon title in Valencia (© Jiro Mochizuki for the IAAF)
The 2019 World Athletics Label road race season concludes on Tuesday (30), highlighted by traditional New Year's Eve fixtures in Bolzano and Madrid.
Kebede gunning for third Boclassic victory
On Tuesday (31) Netsanet Gudeta Kebede will be bidding to win the Boclassic Sylvesterlauf 5km World Athletics Bronze Label road race for the third time.
The Ethiopian will defend her title from last year, when she held off 2014 Boclassic winner Janet Kisa from Kenya in 15:46, one of the fastest times ever recorded on the Bolzano course. Last year’s race was a repeat of the same finish order of the 2015 edition, when Gudeta beat Kisa by five seconds.
Gudeta grabbed the headlines in 2018 when she won World Half Marathon Championships gold in Valencia with a women-only race world record of 1:06:11.
Gudeta grew up in Bekoji, which also produced Ethiopian running legends Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba.
Gudeta will face Kenya’s Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi, who won World Championships silver in the 5000m last October clocking an impressive 14:27.40 personal best behind Hellen Obiri. The Kenyan finished second in Bolzano in 2017 behind her compatriot Agnes Tirop.
The women’s line-up is completed by Kenyan runners Mercy Cherono, world silver medallist in the 5000m in 2013, and Gloria Kite, who clocked her 3000m PB of 8:29.91 in Doha last May, and Ethiopia’s Alemitu Bekele, who raced to U20 silver at the World Cross Country Championships in March.
Double European U20 cross country gold medallist Nadia Battocletti and marathon specialist Sara Dossena will lead the Italian challenge. Battocletti enjoyed a very successful 2019 season, in which she won the European U20 silver in the 5000m last July and a second European U20 cross country title. The 19-year-old also broke the national U20 record in the 3000m with 9:04.46 in August.
Dossena clocked her 2:24:00 PB at the Nagoya Marathon last March becoming the third fastest Italian marathon runner in history.
Other top Italian runners in the field are world U20 mountain running champion Angela Mattevi and Giovanna Epis, who set her personal best of 2:29:11 at the Rotterdam Marathon last April.
Ethiopian 5000m specialist Telahun Haile Bekele is the headliner in the men’s 10km. Bekele was in the spotlight last June when he won the 5000m in 12:52:98 at the Rome Diamond League meeting ahead of his compatriot Selemon Barega, the fastest clocking in the world in 2019. Bekele went on to finish fourth in the 5000m at the World Championships. One week later Bekele won the Giro al Sas in Trento 10 km race beating double world champion Muktar Edris in a re-match of the World Championships final.
Bekele will take on Italian star Yemaneberhan Crippa, who will try to improve his best Boclassic placing, a fourth place showing from 2017. Crippa won the European 10,000m bronze medal in 2018 and made a big step forward in 2019 when he finished eighth at the World Championships 10,000m where he clocked 27:10.76 to break Salvatore Antibo’s long-standing Italian record set in 1989. Antibo won the Boclassic in 1988, the last Italian runner to do so.
The domestic field also features Yohanes Chiappinelli, the 2018 European bronze medallist in the 3000m steeplechase. Chiappinelli ran his 8:24.68 career best time in the steeplechase at the Rome Diamond League meeting. Another continental medallist in the field is Eyob Faniel, who finished fifth in the marathon at the 2018 European Championships in Berlin contributing to the team gold medal for the Italian team.
Nekagenet Crippa, elder brother of Yeman, will try to continue his solid season after returning to the Italian team this year at the European Cross Country Championships.
The line-up is rounded out by Uganda’s Albert Chemutai, fourth in the 3000m steeplechase at the World U20 Championships in 2018, Kenya’s Amos Kipruto, marathon bronze medallist at this year’s World Championships and Germany’s Homyu Tesfaye, who was fifth in the 1500m at the 2013 World Championships.
Diego Sampaolo for World Athletics
Bushendich and Chepngetich the favourites in Madrid 10km
Madrid’s San Silvestre Vallecana 10km once again offers world-class line-ups in both the men’s and women’s races on Tuesday (31), exactly one year after race records were shattered at this World Athletics Gold Label road race.
At the 2018 edition, Jacob Kiplimo and Brigid Kosgei produced spectacular performances as they sped to 26:41 and 29:54 course records. The downhill nature of the course (5.5m per kilometre) meant that Kiplimo's performance couldn’t count as a world record, but was still a notable run as it took 13 seconds off the previous race record set by Eliud Kipchoge back in 2006. For her part, Kosgei obliterated Gelete Burka’s previous course record by a full minute.
This year, Turkey’s Aras Kaya, fresh from a silver medal at the European Cross Country Championships three weeks ago, should be tipped as one of the favourites. The 25-year-old is an accomplished cross country runner, with the 2016 European title and the 2018 bronze medal under his belt. He has not raced over 10km on the road yet but has a 27:48.53 personal best on the track.
The Ugandan contingent will be headed by Mande Bushendich, 22, who finished third last year in 27:24. His set his 10km season’s best of 27:56 in Brunssum in March. He’ll be joined by compatriot Moses Kurong, who brings 59:50 half-marathon credentials to the line. While his quickest time on the track is 27:22.33, the 25-year-old has yet to dip under 28 minutes on the roads.
A third Ugandan in contention will be Boniface Sikowo, a 3000m steeplechase specialist with a 8:25.91 career best, who’ll be making his 10km debut. The 20-year-old competed at the World Championships in October but didn’t advance to the final.
The in-form Belgian Bashir Abdi will also be a factor. The 30-year-old broke the Belgian marathon record in Chicago in October clocking 2:06:14. Abdi set a 15km PB of 42:29 in Heerenberg earlier this month and has a 27:36.40 career best on the track.
Toni Abadía, Fernando Carro, and Abdessadam Oukhelfen will carry Spanish hopes for a top-five finish. Abadía finshed third here three times (2014/2016/2017) and holds the Spanish 10km road record of 27:48. Carro is the Spanish 3000m steeplechase record holder thanks to an 8:05.69 performance in Monaco last July while Oukhelfen, 21, arrives on the heels of bronze medal in the U23 race at the European Cross Country Championships.
Chepngetich – Tola showdown in women’s race
Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich will start as the woman to beat. The reigning world marathon champion is enjoying a brilliant 2019 after opening with an impressive 2:17:08 win in Dubai which places her fourth on the all-time world list. She then kept on with several half marathon victories topped by a 1:05:29 effort in Istanbul on 7 April. Tuesday’s will be the 25-year-old’s first outing since her Doha triumph and she’ll be keen to improve her 31:12 personal best.
She’ll face stiff opposition from Ethiopia’s Helen Bekele Tola, who smashed her 10km best with a 30:47 run in Lausanne on 27 October. The 25-year-old has shown fine consistency over the marathon distance this year, clocking a 2:21:01 PB for second in Tokyo in March and 2:21:36 for fourth in Berlin in September.
The fight for the minor place on the podium should be fierce between Spain’s Carmela Cardama, Poland’s Katarzyna Jankowska and the Portuguese armada of Jessica Augusto, Salomé Rocha and Catarina Ribeiro.
Cardama, 23, who is based in the US, broke the national indoor 5000m record in Boston earlier this month with a 15:25.41 performance. Meanwhile, Rocha clocked a 2:24:47 lifetime best at the London Marathon in April and was tenth at the European Cross Country Championships.
Ribeiro, 29, finished runner-up here two years ago in a lifetime best of 32:41. The 38-year-old Augusto, winner here in 2010, will also be in contention along with Jankowska, who brings 15:37:31 (5000m) and 32:31:40 personal bests to the line.
The point-to-point course begins alongside Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium before finishing on the pitch of another football team, Rayo Vallecano, in Madrid’s southern suburbs.
Forecasters predict a mild night on Tuesday with temperatures ranging between 8-10C and no rain expected. The mass race, which begins two-and-a-half hours before the main event, has drawn 40,000 entrants.
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics