BOURNEMOUTH, United Kingdom, Sep 30 – Kenyans are looking to duplicate their 2015 double victory at the Bournemouth Marathon on Sunday.
Last year, Boaz Kiprono and Joan Kigen cruised to the men’s and women’s titles on this picturesque course along England’s south coast.
This year their compatriots Julius Kiplagat Korir and Peninah Wanjiru will shoulder the roles of favourites.
Kiprono set the men’s course record last year, clocking 2:16:00 in windy conditions. Korir is one of a handful of entrants with the capabilities to lower that on Sunday.
The 34-year-old has two sub-2:10 marathons to his credit with his 2:09:13 personal best dating back to 2012. More recently, he won the Las Palmas Marathon in January clocking 2:14:47.
Stanley Kiprotich Bett has a 2:14:42 best from 2014, but has yet to contest the distance this year.
The 30-year-old Kenyan notched his sole career victory in Tolouse last year, clocking 2:15:59. A third Kenyan, Japhet Koech, clocked 2:16:29 in 2014 and could also be a factor.
The Ethiopian challenge will be led by Melaku Belachew who bring a 2:13:10 personal best to the line. The 26-year-old has one victory to his credit from Ahmedabad, India, in 2015.
His compatriot Adamu Girma will contest his second race over the distance. He finished eighth in his debut in Xiamen in January in 2:15:40.
Others to watch include Ihor Olefirenko of Ukraine who returns to action after his 2:15:36 performance at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The 26-year-old has a personal best of 2:12:04 from 2015.
Watch too for Abdelhadi El Mouaziz of Morocco, who finished second in Edinburgh in May. The 39-year-old is still chasing a 2:12:45 personal best set in San Sebastian in 2007.
Wanjiru chasing more south coast success
The women’s race will likely be another Kenya vs Ethiopian battle with Wanjiru leading the charge. The 31-year-old sports a 2:34:25 best, the fastest in the field, from her victory in nearby Brighton in 2015.
Wanjiru also collected a victory in Malaga last year before finishing third in Brighton earlier this year.
Eddah Jepkosgei, the winner in Edinburgh in May in 2:39:53, could also be a factor. Meanwhile, Hildah Cheboi has a 33:31 best over 10km set when finishing second to Jo Pavey at the 2015 Worcester City Run.
Ethiopian Urge Diro of Ethiopia hopes to play a key role as well. The 22-year-old clocked a 2:35:29 personal best in Hannover earlier this year and more recently finished sixth in Luala Lumpur in early August.
Local attention will fall on Briton Sophie Carter, who has 1:18:59 and 2:48:29 bests in the half marathon and marathon, respectively, set last year. The 37-year-old was a distant second in this race one year ago.
The marathon itself caps the Bournemouth Marathon Festival which features 5km and 10km on Saturday before the half marathon and marathon events on Sunday.