MADRID, April 23- No fewer than 14,611 runners will gather in the Spanish capital to take part in the 39th Rock ’n’ Roll Madrid Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, on Sunday.
Once again, the Kenyan challenge looks formidable.
Even in the absence of the two-time champion (2014 and 2015) Ezekiel Kiptoo Chebii, the Kenyan armada should dominate the event thanks to the presence of Jafred Chirchir Kipchumba, the fastest athlete in contention.
The 32-year-old holds an impressive 2:05:48 career best from Eindhoven 2011 although he has not approached that kind of time in recent campaigns. Kipchumba’s last marathon effort came just six weeks ago in Barcelona, where he finished third in 2:10:23.
Thomas Kiplagat should also be a factor on Sunday in his second outing over the distance this season, having recorded a fine 2:08:34 clocking in Dubai in January when he wasn’t far off his best of 2:07:52 from 2014.
A possible handicap for Kiplagat might be his 1:03:17 effort last Saturday at the Azkoitia-Azpeitia Half Marathon, where he managed a new personal record. However if he has sufficiently recovered from that effort, he is likely to be in contention for the title.
The Kenyan contingent also includes a former world half marathon bronze medallist in the guise of Evans Kiprop Cheruiyot, who achieved that feat in 2007. The 33-year-old boasts personal bests of 59:05 and 2:06:25, while his last performance took place in Enschede where he was victorious in 2:09:40.
Nicholas Kipkemboi (2:06:33), Laban Kipkemboi and Joseph Kimeli (both credited with bests of 2:08:38) are the other Kenyan contenders while Uganda’s Thomas Ayeko will make his second appearance over the classic distance, having debuted in 2:12:17 in Rennes last October.
Already this year, Ayeko took a fine win at the Amorebieta XC meeting in January.
Local hopes rest on Francisco España, who will be competing over the 42,195m distance for the second time after his debut in Barcelona barely six weeks ago, when he was timed at 2:18:38.
The altitude of Madrid, which is 695 metres above sea level, and the undulating profile of the race route has meant that the course record remains a relatively modest 2:09:15, set by Kenya’s Ezekiel Kiptoo Chebii a couple of years ago.
-Jepkoech ready to reign again-
The women’s line-up features the victor in last year’s race, Monica Jepkoech of Kenya, who managed her PB of 2:27:26 last October in Toronto. However last year she had to settle for a modest winning time of 2:33:42 on Madrid’s tough circuit.
The 30-year-old will be joined by her fellow Kenyans Miriam Wangary, who ran 2:27:53 in Xiamen last year, although in 2016 she has a best of 2:33:27.
Another likely to be in contention is Nancy Kiprop, the runner-up at last November’s Valencia Marathon in a career best of 2:27:34.
The Ethiopian duo of Alemayehu Adula and Abebech Tsegaye Bekele (2:33:49 in Seville last year) will try to avoid a clean sweep of medals for Kenya, and look capable of taking podium places.
The women’s course record remains at 2:32:04, set by Turkey’s Mehtap Dogan-Sizmaz back in 2009.
In addition to the main event, a half marathon and 10km event will be contested on Sunday morning, leading to a record overall figure of over 34,611 runners who are expected to participate on the day.
The men’s half marathon should be a rematch from last season when Kenya’s Silas Muturi Givochi claimed a surprise victory in 1:03:32 ahead of his renowned compatriot Emmanuel Bett, who is fresh from a commanding 1:01:47 win last Saturday in Azkoitia.
Moses Bowen, second placed on that occasion in 1:01:59, completes a classy field, while the hot favourite in the 10km race is Spain’s reigning European U23 5000m bronze medallist Carlos Mayo.
Weather forecasters are predicting a partially cloudy day with temperatures ranging between 12 and 14 degrees celsius and no likelihood of rain during the races, which should mean both course records will be under threat this weekend.