A powerful Kenyan armada will try to better the men’s race record of 2:07:30 at the Zurich Barcelona Marathon, an IAAF Bronze Label road race, on Sunday (10).
Organisers have redesigned the course to soften both the early stages and the closing kilometres which have now gentler slopes.
Kenyan Laban Korir, who boasts a career best of 2:05:54, will start as one of the main favourites. The 33-year-old has shown fine consistency since that 2016 run in Amsterdam 2016, clocking 2:05:58 in Rotterdam and 2:06:33 in Amsterdam last year.
Defending champion Anthony Maritim will try to succeed again but his lifetime best of 2:08:08 set here last year might not be enough. The fastest man in the field is Eliud Kiptanui, holder of a 2:05:21 PB set in Berlin 2015. He’s hoping to improve on his last effort of 2:14:15 in Xiamen last January to be in the hunt for victory.
Race record holder Jackson Kotut will also be in contention although the 31-year-old Kenyan has not run under 2:10 since 2010, his last outing being a 2:13:08 run from Casablanca last October. Other Kenyans in contention include Laban Mutai (2:07:38) and Philemon Kacheran (2:09:13).
The Ethiopian challenge will be led by the in-form Abebe Negewo, fresh from a runner-up finish at the Barcelona Half Marathon four weeks ago. The 31-year-old will try to improve on his lifetime best of 2:08:41 while his compatriot Limeni Getachew, holder of a 2:06:49 PB, should also be a factor.
With a race record the goal, four pacemakers have been employed to better 2:07:30. Sammy Niokaye will take the field through the first half, with fellow Kenyan Ezekiel Chepkorom taking over until 25 kilometres and Ezekiel Mutai and Roland Korir forging on until the 30km checkpoint.
Chepngeno the women’s favourite
In the women’s contest, Kenya’s Jackline Chepngeno will be the athlete to beat. The 26-year-old is the fastest in the field thanks to her 2:24:38 performance in Amsterdam last October. Three other runners in the field have gone under 2:30, all from Ethiopia: Aberash Fayesa (2:27:04), 2018 Malaga Marathon winner Meseret Abebayehu (2:29:14) and Tigist Teshome, winner in Castellón last year in a lifetime best of 2:29:57.
Kenya’s Michael Mutai and Spain’s Marc Roig – the pacemaker who led Florence Kiplagat to her half marathon world record performances in 2014 and 2015 in Barcelona – have been asked to inject a rhythm quick enough to threaten Helen Tola Bekele’s race record of 2:25:04 set in 2017.
A record 17,465 entrants representing no fewer than 107 countries will take part in Sunday’s event, with France (2137) and Great Britain (1232) the most represented after Spain. Overall, 49 percent of the athletes will arrive from abroad and 20 percent are women.
The forecast calls for pleasant and sunny conditions, with temperatures between 12-14 at the start with neither rain nor wind likely.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF