Four weeks after Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei set a world half marathon record (pending ratification), both men’s and women’s event records will be under threat at the Maratón Valencia Trinidad Alfonso EDP, an IAAF Gold Label road race in the same eastern Spanish city on Sunday (20).
The current standards, which also double up as Spanish all-comers' records, stand at 2:06:13 and 2:24:48, set in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Boosted by the success of last month’s half marathon, the organisers have brought together a quality field capable of improving those marks on Sunday.
Chebet leads Kenyan charge
Seven men in the field have previously run quicker than 2:06:13 on at least one occasion. Kenya’s Evans Kiplagat Chebet, holder of a career best of 2:05:31 in Berlin last year, seems to be the most in-form runner. The 29-year-old’s fastest time this year is a 2:06:42 clocking from February’s Tokyo Marathon; more recently, he finished runner-up at the Tilburg 10 miles in September in 45:06.
Compatriot Victor Kipchirchir will defend his title, having won last year in a PB of 2:07:39. His only appearance this season is a 2:08:52 seventh-place finish in Seoul back in March.
Emmanuel Mutai, Sammy Kitwara and Bernard Koech are the fastest entrants for the race. Mutai isn’t in quite the same form that carried him to a PB of 2:03:13, the fourth-fastest performance in history, in Berlin in 2014, but the 33-year-old should improve on his outings earlier this year – a 2:19:23 effort in Boston and a 1:03:06 half marathon run in Porto – to be in the hunt for the victory on Sunday.
Kitwara, who boasts a career best of 2:04:48 set in Chicago three years ago, will be eager to finish his first marathon this year after failing to finish in Boston, Berlin and Amsterdam. Koech is another sub-2:05 performer at his best, but he had to settle for 48:14 in Tilburg, more than three minutes behind Chebet.
Another Kenyans on show include Mathew Kisorio, fresh from a 1:01:15 half marathon effort in Valencia last month, Eric Ndiema, a 2:06:07 performer who holds a season’s best of 2:15:31, and Titus Mbishei, who will be making his debut over the distance after showing fine credentials on shorter distances as he boasts respective PBs of 26:59.81 for 10,000m and 59:55 for the half marathon.
Ethiopia’s Abera Kuma and Deribe Robi could also be a threat. While Kuma has not raced over the distance this year, he clocked a PB of 2:05:56 three years ago. Robi, meanwhile, is fresh from a 2:17:44 performance in Beijing last September and will be looking to bounce back and get close to his lifetime best of 2:05:58 set in 2015.
Kibrom Ghebrezgiabhier, who represented Eritrea at this year’s World Championships, will be looking to improve on his season’s best of 2:14:52 and perhaps even challenge his PB of 2:09:36.
Mazuronak makes marathon season debut
Following victories from African athletes in both the men’s and women’s races for the past seven years, a pair of European athletes will start as the favourites for the women’s race on Sunday.
Olga Mazuronak of Belarus made a major breakthrough last season when she finished fifth at the Rio Olympics in 2:24:48, not far from her career best of 2:23:54 she had set in London earlier in the year.
The 28-year-old former race walker has not performed over the classic distance this year, her only appearances being a couple of PBs over 5000m (15:33.06) and 10,000m (32:13.73), but on Sunday she might try to target the course record which coincidentally is the same time as her performance from Rio (2:24:48).
Mazuronak’s stiffest opposition might come from Portugal’s European half marathon champion Sara Moreira. The 32-year-old clocked a PB of 2:24:49 in Prague in 2015, but failed to finish the Olympic marathon in Rio and has not tackled the distance since.
This season Moreira won the European 10,000m Cup – finishing just ahead of Mazuronak, second on that occasion – and holds a season’s best of 1:12:07 for the half marathon.
Germany’s Anja Scherl, who set a PB of 2:27:50 last year, will also be in contention.
Ethiopia’s Aberu Mekuria will be making her fourth outing over this distance this season. She completed three marathons between February and May, topped by a 2:26:55 clocking in Seoul, not far from her PB of 2:25:30.
She will be joined by 2008 world cross-country silver medallist Mestewat Tufa, who last competed in January 2016 with a 2:26:34 effort, while Kenyan hopes rest on Winnie Jepkorir, who set a 2:27:52 PB in Daegu last April.
A record number of 19,300 runners, including 6220 overseas entrants from 89 countries, will take part in Sunday’s race, which last year became the first Spanish marathon to earn the IAAF Gold Label.
Weather forecasters predict quite a sunny day and a temperature of about 16C by the time of the event.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF