NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 12 – Reigning London Marathon champion Brigid Kosgei will be the centre of attention at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday as the Kenyan returns to defend her title at this IAAF Gold Label road race.
The focus will firmly be on Kosgei, at the moment the finest marathoner on the planet.
The 25-year-old won in Chicago last year in 2:18:35 and returned to London in April to move up a notch from her 2018 finish there to take that title as well with a 2:18:20 lifetime best, moving up to No. 7 all-time.
Kosgei ran a sensational 1:04:28 at the Great North Run on 8 September, suggesting that she could be in form to challenge the 2:17:18 course record set by Paula Radcliffe way back in 2002.
Leading the charge to upend Kosgei’s ambitions are Ethiopians Gelete Burka, the Paris Marathon champion, and Ababel Yeshaneh, and US star Jordan Hasay.
Burka, a name that’s been familiar to distance running fans for more than a decade-and-a-half, has evolved from a strong 1500m runner –Burka raced to world indoor gold over the distance in 2008– to one of the world’s best marathoners.
Now 33, Burka has recent wins in Ottawa (2018) and Paris (2019) to her credit along with a solid 2:20:45 career best set in Dubai last year.
Yeshaneh, 29, has a 2:24:02 lifetime best set in Tokyo earlier this year but ran significantly faster in her victory in Dubai last year, where she clocked 2:20:16 on a course that was determined to be about 200 metres short.
Hasay, 28, set her 2:20:57 career best in Chicago two years ago where she finished third. She also has a pair of third place finishes in Boston to her credit, clocking 2:23:00 in 2017 and 2:25:20 earlier this year. She tuned up at a half marathon in Philadelphia on 15 September clocking 1:12:35.
Others in the hunt for a top-five spot include Kenyan Betsy Saina, the 2018 Paris Marathon winner in 2:22:56, while rising US stars Laura Thweatt, who has a 2:25:38 best and 2018 US champion Emma Bates, with a 2:28:19 career best, will be looking for a strong breakout performance.
-Farah to lead men’s race-
In the corresponding men’s race, Mo Farah impressed in Chicago last year, taking the win in 2:05:11, a personal best in his first victory over the distance.
He was fifth in London in April clocking 2:05:39 and arrives in the Windy City on the back of a 59:07 victory at the Great North Run half marathon on 8 September.
He’ll face a daunting task in his defence attempt, facing four men who have covered the distance in under 2:05: Kenyans Lawrence Cherono and Dickson Chumba and Ethiopians Asefe Mengstu and Seifu Tura.
Cherono, 31, clocked his 2:04:06 lifetime best en route to his victory in Amsterdam the year before last. He also won his most recent marathon, Boston in April, when he kicked to a solid 2:07:57 victory. A fierce competitor, Cherono has won four of his last five marathons.
Chumba, 32, set his 2:04:32 best in Chicago’s 2014 edition and was third in Tokyo this year in 2:08:44, his most recent marathon.
Mengstu meanwhile has, along with Cherono, the fastest PB in the field. He ran nearly as fast in Dubai in January where he was third in 2:04:24 and most recently, clocked 2:07:25 to finish second in April’s Paris Marathon.
Tura, 24, didn’t finish in Tokyo earlier this year but has a 2:04:44 best set in Dubai last year. Most recently, he clocked 59:16 in a half marathon in Buenos Aires in August, finishing second.
The local focus will be on Galen Rupp, the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist, who makes his first marathon appearance since undergoing heel surgery in late 2018. Rupp won in Chicago in 2017, the same year he finished second in Boston, and was fifth in Chicago in 2018, clocking 2:06:21, not far from his 2:06:07 lifetime best set in Prague in May 2018.
Others to watch include Kenyan Bedan Karoki, who has a 2:06:48 lifetime best and Belgian Bashir Abdi, one of Farah’s training partners, who clocked 2:07:03 in London in April, his second marathon.