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Jepkosgei to take centre stage in Valencia

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Joyceline Jepkosgei wins the Karlovy Vary Half Marathon (Giancarlo Colombo / organisers) © Copyright.

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 20 – Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei will be the marquee attraction at the Trinidad Alfonso Valencia Half Marathon on Sunday.

Jepkosgei made a major breakthrough last spring by breaking no less than four world records at the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon which she won in 1:04:52. Jepkosgei also set world records for 10km, 15km and 20km en route to victory.

The 23-year-old rising star has continued to display phenomenal form ahead of her arrival in the city that will host the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships Valencia 2018 in March.

On 9 September, also in the Czech capital, she smashed through the 10km’s 30-minute barrier with an impressive 29:43 performance to clip 21 seconds from her previous world record.

Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa Debele is the second quickest woman in Sunday’s line-up, credited at 1:06:14 last year before making her marathon debut early in January 2017 when she clocked 2:22.36.

The Ethiopian, who finished runner-up in Valencia two years ago, will be joined by compatriots Netsanet Gudeta and Gelete Burka. While the former won in Valencia in 2015 but has not run faster than 1:10:03 this season, Burka, a multiple world medallist on the track and cross country, will be making her opening for the distance this campaign, having clocked 1:09:32 in New Delhi last year.

Watch out too for the 2015 world 5000m silver medallist Senbere Teferi, the 22-year-old Ethiopian who’ll be making her debut over the distance. An accomplished track and cross country specialist, she has also shown ability on the roads and managed a 30:38 10km PB in Tilburg last month.

Jepkosgei, the overwhelming favourite, will run in the company of her countrywomen Fancy Chemutai, who signed a career best of 1:06:58 on her debut in Prague, Lucy Cheruiyot, fresh from a PB of 1:07:23 in Usti Nad Labem and Paskalia Chepkorir (1:07:58).

Men’s race – In-form Cheroben to strike again

Bahrain’s Abraham Cheroben, one of the year’s leading road runners, heads the men’s field.

The 24-year-old is the fastest man this season thanks to his recent PB of 58:40 set barely five weeks ago in Copenhagen.

Cheroben has already succeeded twice in Valencia with fantastic times of 58:48 and 59:10 in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Looking for a hat trick of victories last year, he had to settle for ninth place so he should be eager to bounce back from that performance and reign again.

Cheroben’s toughest opponent might well be his former compatriot Vincent Kipsang Rono. A creditable seventh at the World Cross Country Championships in Kampala last March, the 26-year-old Kenyan improved his lifetime best by two minutes this year with his 59:27 victory in Lille in early September.

Rono’s countryman Justus Kangogo is another in-form entrant. The 22-year-old has had a busy 2017 as Valencia will be his fifth half marathon effort of the year. He ran a massive PB of 59:31 in Rome last March and more recently clocked 1:01:48 for victory in Trento on 1 October.

Another Kenyan on show will be Matthew Kisorio, who made the podium in 2014 and 2015 thanks to a respective times of 59:50 for third and 59:52 for second. However, the 28-year-old must improve on his last race – 1:01:28 for sixth in Porto last month – to be in the quest for the victory.

Other Kenyans in contention include Simon Cheprot who has dipped under the one-hour barrier three times during his career and Kenneth Keter, a creditable 59:48 performer last year, who clocked 1:01:05 in Ras Al Khaimah in February.

Geoffrey Yegon also joined the sub-one hour club this year after his 59:56 effort to win at The Hague. More recently, he placed ninth in Copenhagen timed at 1:00:16.

Morocco’s Mustapha El Aziz will try to match his surprise runner-up performance from last year when he clocked 59:29. He has competed sparingly this season, his last outing being a second place in Milan (1:01:29).

New Zealand’s Jake Robertson will be looking to make further strides after a pair of breakthrough runs earlier this year, a 1:00:01 debut to win in Lisbon in March and 1:00:12 in South Shields where he was second behind Mo Farah.

More than 14,200 athletes will take part, a record for the event. Women’s entrants have surpassed 3300 for the first time while 2150 athletes come from abroad representing no fewer than 70 countries.

Weather forecasters predict a sunny day with a temperature of about 17C at the start.

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