VALENCIA, Spain, Oct 26 – In the absence of defending champion and world record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei and compatriot Fancy Chemutai, Kenya’s Edith Chelimo will look to fly Kenya’s flag high at this year’s Media Maratón de Valencia Trinidad Alfonso on Sunday.
Jepkosgei set a world record at last year’s race and in her absence, organizers were looking to lure Chemutai to step up, but the latter was forced to withdraw due to injury earlier this week.
Chelimo however will be looked at as a huge contender having run a 1:05:52 career best set last year in Cardiff, and a season’s best of 1:07:13 from Houston earlier this year.
Ethiopia’s Buze Diriba should also be a factor. The 24-year-old clocked 1:06:50 in Houston where she beat Chelimo.
Her compatriots Gudeta Bekelech, who was eighth at last year’s World Championships, set a PB of 1:07:03 last month in Copenhagen.
Gelete Burka, who claimed the 2008 world indoor 3000m title in Valencia, is also in the field. The 32-year-old has enjoyed a successful transition to road events, with solid 2:20:45 and 1:08:18 personal bests in the marathon and half marathon.
Other Kenyans on show include Diana Kipyogei (1:07:55), Caroline Rotich (1:08:52) and Risper Chebet (1:09:24) with Eritrea’s Yeshi Chekole (1:09:13) also aiming for a top-five spot.
Meanwhile, in the men’s race, World Half Marathon Championships silver medallist Abraham Cheroben will start as favourite.
In addition to that accolade achieved in the same Spanish city last March, the 25-year-old Bahraini took top honours at this race in 2014, 2015 and 2017 and set the race record of 58:48 during his first victory.
Although Cherono has not produced a standout performance since his silver medal in last year’s World Championships race when he finished second to Geoffrey Kamworor, he should be tipped as the man to beat. But he’ll face the toughest field ever assembled in Valencia as no less than 17 men have broken the 60-minute barrier at least once in their careers.
Kenya’s Mangata Ndiwa will be a dangerous outsider since his successful debut over the distance in April when he clocked 59:07.
The same goes for Abraham Kiptum, the second fastest entrant this season after his 59:09 runner-up finish in Copenhagen where he ran five seconds faster than Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer, who clocked 59:00 earlier this year at the RAK Half.
The 22-year-old was just two seconds shy of a podium finish at the World Championships here and will gunning for a top-three finish this time around.
Yimer will have compatriot Getaneh Molla for company. A notable fifth at the World Championhips, the 24-year-old has successfully combined road and track events this season, most recently with a 12:59.58 5000m personal best in Brussels last August.
Watch out too for the in-form Kenyan Simon Cheprot, who took second at a 15km race in Valencia last June in a career best of 42:32, suggesting he might not to be far from his 59:20 PB form on Sunday.
His compatriot Morris Gachaga has dipped under the 60-minute barrier this season with a PB of 59:36 in Ras Al Khaimah and also promises to be in the hunt for the top-five while Kenyan Stephen Kiprop, 19, took the win in style in Usti Nad Labem last month in a career best of 59:41, the fastest by a U20 athlete this year.
Further notable entrants include the Kenya pair Solomon Kirwa Yego (PBs of 58:44 and 2:07:37, the latter in Berlin in his only outing this year) and Jorum Okombo (58:48), who’ll be running his seventh half marathon this year.