NAIROBI, Kenya, March 1 – Seven years after a natural disaster got in the way of him making his Vienna City Marathon debut, Eliud Kiptanui will line up for the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on 23 April as one of the favourites to take the title.
In 2010, when an ash cloud caused by Icelandic volcano Eyyafyallayöküll disrupted travel throughout Europe, a number of major marathons struggled getting their elite runners to the race.
Most of Vienna’s field made it in time before the closures to the Austrian capital, but Kiptanui was among the few who were missing.
A few weeks later, Kiptanui produced headlines not that far away from Austria’s capital when he smashed the course record at the Prague Marathon with 2:05:39. Vienna’s loss was Prague’s gain.
The 27-year-old Kenyan went on to finish fifth in the marathon at the 2011 World Championships and improved his best to 2:05:21 when finishing second at the 2015 Berlin Marathon.
But Kiptanui won’t be the only sub-2:06 runner toeing the Vienna City Marathon startline on 23 April.
Ethiopia’s Deribe Robi clocked 2:05:58 in Eindhoven in 2015, when he took second place. The 26-year-old showed good consistency with a total of eight sub-2:08 times.
He won the Marrakech Marathon in 2014, placed third in Dubai a year later, fourth in Rotterdam in 2014 and fifth in Frankfurt in the same year.
Kiptanui and Robi will be challenged by Morocco’s Mustapha El Aziz as well as Kenyans Philipp Kangogo and Suleiman Simotwo.
El Aziz has a personal best of 2:07:55 with which he took third place in Seoul four years ago. More recently the 32-year-old clocked promising personal bests of 27:33 at 10km and 59:29 for the half marathon.
Kangogo is a promising newcomer to the marathon. Two years ago he won his debut at the distance in Barcelona with a fine 2:08:16 and then he was second in Ottawa in 2:09:56. Vienna will be his third marathon.
Fellow Kenyan Simotwo, 36, will be making his third consecutive appearance in Vienna. He was fifth in 2015 and then improved to third place last year, clocking 2:10:15 despite heavy winds.
The former 1500m specialist, who has a PB of 3:31.67 at that distance, set his marathon best of 2:08:49 when finishing fifth at the 2015 Frankfurt Marathon.