Previews01 Apr 2016

Battle of the marathon masters between Lel and Mungara in Milan


Kenneth Mungara winning at the 2015 Milano Marathon (© Giancarlo Colombo / organisers)

Three-time London Marathon champion Martin Lel will line up against defending champion Kenneth Mungara at the 16th edition of the Suisse Gas Milano City Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label Road Race, on Sunday (3).

The organisers are aiming to make this year’s edition the fastest ever marathon on Italian soil, living up to the race’s motto: ‘run fast, live cool’. The Italian all-comers’ record is held by Benjamin Kiptoo Kotum, who clocked 2:07:17 in Rome in 2009. The fastest time ever achieved in Milan was set by Duncan Kibet in 2008 with 2:07:53, but the course has since changed.

Lel boasts an impressive list of honours. Along with his London Marathon victories in 2005, 2007 and 2008, he also triumphed at the New York City Marathon in 2003 and 2007, won the world half-marathon title in 2003 and finished fifth in the marathon at the 2008 Olympics. His PB of 2:05:15 was set in London in 2008 and was a course record at the time.

The 37-year-old’s most recent podium finish at a marathon came in London in 2012 when he finished second in 2:06:51. Lel, whose younger brother Cyprian Kotut finished second in Milan last year, has run just two marathons since then, finishing sixth in Honolulu in 2013 and ninth in Dailan last year in 2:16:27.

But Lel won’t be the oldest athlete in the elite field. Twelve months after setting a world M40 masters record, Mungara will return to Milan to defend his title. The 42-year-old Kenyan has since shaved two seconds off that mark when running a PB of 2:08:42 at the Gold Coast Marathon last July.

Among the other top runners who could mix in the battle for the top three, there are 21-year-old Samuel Rutto, who won the 2014 Turin Marathon in 2:10:00, 20-year-old Ernest Ngeno, who won the Hengshui Marathon last September in 2:07:57, and Ishmael Bushendich, who won the Toronto Marathon last year in 2:09:00.

Kenyan athletes have won the past four women’s races in Milan, but Ireland’s Maria McCambridge could end that streak on Sunday. The 40-year-old set a PB of 2:34:19 in Dublin two years ago in what was her most recent marathon.

She will take on two Kenyans whose inexperience could also make them a danger. Recho Kosgei made her marathon debut in Danzhou last year, clocking 2:40:16, while Brigid Kosgei’s sole marathon to date was a 2:47:59 run in Porto last November.

The Milano City Marathon will be held on the same course as last year with the start and the finish in the same point in Corso Venezia in the Centre of Milan. The course underwent just some minor changes compared to last year, as it includes the passage through Via Montenapoleone. The course will reach Porta Nuova and the Central Railway Station at two kilometres before entering the heart of the Northern Italian city.

Runners will go through Piazza del Duomo at 7km and Piazza della Scala, the two main symbols of Milan, before moving towards the north-western part of the city in a vast green area where the San Siro football stadium is located.

From there, runners will reach Corso Sempione, which will guide runners to the Arc of Peace in the Sempione Park. Runners will cross the Cannon Square beneath the walls of the Castello Sforzesco, another symbol of Milan located at 39km.

The event will also revive the tradition of the popular Europe Assistance Relays Marathon, in which 2500 teams will participate to raise funds for 65 charities. The ambassador for this year’s race is Croatia’s two-time world high jump champion Blanka Vlasic.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF