Stephen Mokoka wins the 2015 Shanghai Marathon (© Organisers)
Two-time champion Stephen Mokoka of South Africa will be looking to take his third consecutive title at the Shanghai International Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, while the women’s race will witness a new champion on Sunday (8).
The 30-year-old Mokoka cruised to the top podium at the past two editions of the race and set a course record of 2:08:43 last year. Aside from his 2:08:33 debut in Seoul in 2010 and his run at the London Olympics, all of Mokoka’s other marathons to date have been contested in Shanghai.
His times in Shanghai have got quicker each year, too; after running 2:10:29 in 2011, he clocked 2:09:43 in 2012 and 2:09:30 in 2013.
But completing his hat-trick will not be a piece of cake for Mokoka as he will be facing a field of 10 sub-2:08 runners, many of whom will be capable of challenging Mokoka’s course record.
Ethiopia’s Tadese Tola is among the favourites for Sunday’s race. The 2013 world bronze medallist has a PB of 2:04:49, set when finishing third at the 2013 Dubai Marathon. The 28-year-old also has considerable experience competing in China, setting a course record of 2:07:16 at the 2013 Beijing Marathon and clocking a season’s best of 2:10:30 when finishing fifth at the Xiamen Marathon earlier this year.
Tola’s compatriot Endeshaw Negesse is also a serious contender with a PB of 2:04:52 set in 2013. Boosted by his high-profile victory at the Tokyo Marathon this season with the second-fastest time of his career at 2:06:00, the 27-year-old hopes to do better than his fourth-place finish from last year’s Shanghai Marathon.
Eliud Kiptanui of Kenya is the fastest man in the field this year. He clocked a PB of 2:05:21 to finish second at the Berlin Marathon in September, taking 18 seconds off his long-standing PB which had stood since 2010.
Kenya’s Mariko Kiplagat Kipchumba will also be a man to watch on Sunday. With a PB of 2:06:05 from three years ago, the 41-year-old is the winner of Xiamen Marathon in 2013 and 2014 and won the Beijing Marathon title in 2:11:00 in September. But whether he can physically recover from the race 50 days ago and fine-tune to his best shape remains a question.
The field includes six other sub-2:08 runners including 2014 Seoul Marathon champion Yacob Jarso, 2012 Shanghai Marathon winner and former course record-holder Sylvester Teimet, Ethiopia’s Abrha Milaw, and the Kenyan trio of Nicholas Manza Kamakya, Elijah Kemboi and Paul Kipchumba Lonyangata.
Although the men’s course record looks vulnerable, the chance to see a women’s course record on Sunday looks slim as only one of the nine elite runners has a PB faster than the 2:21:52 mark set last year by Ethiopia’s Tigist Tufa.
Georgina Rono has a PB of 2:21:39, but it was set three years ago and she hasn’t run faster than 2:26 since then. The 35-year-old Kenyan won the Hamburg Marathon in 2014, but her fastest time this year is 2:32:06.
Rono’s compatriot Caroline Kilel won the 2011 Boston Marathon and set her PB of 2:22:34 in 2013 when winning the Frankfurt Marathon for the second time. The 34-year-old finished second in Shanghai last year in 2:25:22 last year and her familiarity of the course could be an advantage.
In the absence of defending champion Tufa and no other former champions to compete this year, the women’s race will witness a new champion this weekend. If either Kilel or Rono win, they will be the first Kenyan women to triumph in Shanghai, ending a four-year streak of Ethiopian victories.
But Biruktayit Eshetu could be the biggest hope to continue Ethiopia’s dominance of this race. The 33-year-old is the fastest of the field this season after clocking a PB of 2:23:51 to finish third in Houston in January.
Turkey’s Sultan Haydar has also been in lifetime-best form this year. She started the year with a half-marathon PB of 1:09:49, and then broke her own Turkish marathon record to finish 12th in Dubai in 2:24:44.
The field includes two other sub-2:26 runners: 2015 Lanzhou Marathon champion Nguriatukei Rael Kiyara of Kenya and 25-year-old Ethiopian Letebrhan Haylay, who will be contesting just her third marathon to date, having made her debut earlier this year.
Vincent Wu for the IAAF