Paul Lonyangata winning the Paris Marathon (© AFP)
Two-time Schneider Electric Paris Marathon winner Paul Lonyangata will seek a record third consecutive victory at the IAAF Gold Label road race on Sunday (14).
The 26-year-old Kenyan set his lifetime best of 2:06:10 when winning in the French capital two years ago. He came close to that mark last year when he retained his title in 2:06:25, the second-fastest time of his career.
He hasn’t raced since then, however, and he picked up a slight injury last week when he slipped and fell in training, but he insisted that it shouldn’t affect his ability to compete on Sunday.
Lonyangata faces a tough challenge, though, as he will line up against fellow Kenyans Augustine Choge, Hillary Kipsambu, Ishmael Bushendich and Barselius Kipyego, plus a duo of Ethiopian men with sub-2:05 PBs: Asefa Mengistu and Yemane Tsegay.
Choge, one of the most versatile distance runners in the world over the past decade, has won global medals indoors, outdoors and at cross country. The 32-year-old has moved to the roads in recent years and clocked 59:26 for the half marathon in 2017. His marathon debut in Chicago last year ended with a DNF but he is aiming for a better result in Paris.
With a best of 2:04:06, Mengistu is the fastest man in the field. A past winner in Seoul, Cape Town and Bloemfontein, he set his PB when placing fourth in Dubai in 2018. He finished third in Dubai this year and came close to his best with 2:04:24.
Tsegay’s PB of 2:04:48 dates back to 2012, but the 34-year-old is still highly competitive and won in Ottawa last year. More recently he finished runner-up in Fukuoka four months ago.
Nicolas Navarro, the second-fastest marathon runner in France last year, leads the domestic charge and will aim to improve on his PB of 2:12:39.
Almost all of the leading contenders in the women’s race set their PBs in 2018, so will be heading to the French capital in good form.
Gelete Burka – who, like Choge, has won global medals across a range of distances – is the most decorated athlete in the field. Winner of the 2006 world cross-country short course title and 2008 world indoor 1500m title, the 33-year-old Ethiopian finally conquered the marathon distance in 2018, clocking a PB of 2:20:45 in Dubai and then going on to win in Ottawa in 2:22:17, the first marathon victory of her career.
Relative newcomer Azmera Abreha could be a danger, though. The Ethiopian reduced her PB to 2:21:51 to finish runner-up in Shanghai five months ago and has finished on the podium in three of the four marathons she has contested to date.
Compatriot Azmera Gebru has more overall experience but is new to the marathon. The 2011 world U20 cross-country bronze medallist made her debut at the distance last year with a promising 2:23:31.
Kenyan athletes have won the past three women’s races at the Paris Marathon and 2014 world half marathon bronze medallist Sally Chepyego leads their charge this year. The experienced 33-year-old set her marathon PB of 2:23:15 when finishing second in Ljubljana last year.
Compatriots Pascalia Kipkoech and Betty Lempus are also expected to feature in the leading pack.
Omullo returns to Warsaw
Defending Orlen Warsaw Marathon champion Ezekiel Omullo will be seeking his fourth victory in the Polish capital when he contests the IAAF Silver Label road race on Sunday (14).
The Kenyan won the PZU Warsaw Marathon, held annually in autumn, in 2015 and 2016. Last year he contested the Orlen Warsaw Marathon but the result was the same: another victory.
This course is generally considered to be quicker than the one used for the city’s other marathon, where Omullo set his PB of 2:08:55 in 2016. Warm conditions prevented fast times 12 months ago, but this weekend Omullo will be aiming to run quite a bit faster than his winning time of 2:11:17 last year.
“I am well prepared,” he said at the pre-race press conference. “I want to retain my title and run quicker than 2:07.”
Doing so would mean he’d challenge the course record of 2:06:55, but his main aim will be to hold off the likes of Ethiopia’s Werkunesh Seyoum and Kenya’s Cosmas Mutuku, who have respective PBs of 2:09:25 and 2:09:57.
Georgina Rono is the fastest in the women’s field. Her 2:21:39 PB was set back in 2012, but the 34-year-old won in Riga last year in 2:28:22, a time that only one other woman in the field – Sheila Jerotich – has ever bettered.
Jerotich won the 2017 Kosice Marathon in 2:27:34 and went on to represent Kenya at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, finishing fourth in brutally warm conditions.
Poland’s Izabela Trzaskalska will once again contest for a podium place, having finished third last year and second in 2017, clocking a PB of 2:29:56. The 31-year-old, who finished 10th in the marathon at last year’s European Championships, recently set a 10km PB of 33:38.
Jimma takes on local favourites in Wuhan
Fantu Jimma of Ethiopia will lead a quality women’s field that contains some of China’s best runners at the Dongfeng Renault Wuhan Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race, on Sunday (14).
The 31-year-old, who is still chasing her first marathon title since debuting over the classic distance in 2011, is the fastest entrant on paper with her personal best of 2:26:14 achieved in Dubai in 2015.
She came close to that mark with her third-place finish of 2:26:53 at the 2016 Xiamen Marathon and returned to Xiamen this January with a clocking of 2:29:55 to finish third once again, which was her first sub-2:30 performance in three years.
China’s Li Zhixuan chopped more than four minutes off her PB earlier this year to finish 13th in Nagoya in 2:26:15, but also finished as the runner-up in Buri Ram and Chongqing. This will be her fourth marathon in little more than two months, though, so she may not be quite as fresh as some of the other leading contenders.
Compatriot He Yinli, a 2:27:35 performer, finished third in Chongqing two weeks ago in 2:29:14. The 31-year-old will be running on a familiar course on Sunday as she finished sixth in the central Chinese city last year in 2:32:58.
The field also contains two other sub-2:30 runners: Kenya’s Sarah Chebet with a PB of 2:27:07 and Ethiopia’s 2008 world U20 5000m champion Sule Utura, whose career best of 2:29:04 was set in Venice two years ago.
The man’s field is led by Felix Kirwa of Kenya, whose lifetime best of 2:06:13 was recorded at the 2017 Eindhoven Marathon. The 23-year-old also clocked 2:08:12 in Rotterdam two years ago and most recently finished second in Singapore in 2:13:43.
Fellow Kenyan Sylvester Kimeli Teimet is the second fastest in the field. Although his career best of 2:06:49 dates back to 2010, the 34-year-old veteran remained in a good level of competitiveness, finishing sixth in Wuxi in 2:10:44.
Andrew Ben Kimutai is another man to watch from the Kenyan contingent. The 29-year-old improved his PB to 2:08:32 last year in Seville. It will be his fourth race in China following his third-place finish in Chongqing, a runner-up finish in Taiyuan in 2017, and an eighth-place finish in Lanzhou last year.
The field also includes Josephat Letting of Kenya with a PB of 2:09:34 set in Enschede in 2013 and Ethiopia’s Belachew Alemayehu, whose PB of 2:09:49 was set in Dubai in 2016.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF