Kipchumba, Jepchirchir out to defend Beijing, Usti titles
Mariko Kipchumba and World Half Champion Peres Chepchirir are in action on Saturday where they are seeking to defend their men Beijing Marathon and women Mattoni Usti nad Labem Half Marathon titles with both events classed as IAAF Gold Label Road Races.
Kipchumba, the 42-year-old Kenyan veteran, who ran down runners nearly half his age to take the title in the Chinese capital one year ago, will be gunning to become just the fourth man to successfully defend the Beijing crown.
The runner who has a solid 2:06:05 career best to his credit from 2012, won here last year in 2:11:00 but his form this weekend will be shrouded in mystery given he has not raced over the distance since his modest eighth place showing at the Shanghai Marathon last November.
Besides the defending champion, seven other men have run under 2:10, promising a competitive race with Mesfin Teshome of Ethiopia arriving with a 2:09:24 personal best set in Dubai in January where he finished tenth.
Edwin Kangogo Kimaiyo of Kenya produced his 2:09:47 best in Enschede in 2015 while 36-year-old Beraki Beyene of Eritrea set his 2:08:27 best in Hengshui in 2014.
On paper, Meseret Mengistu, the 2015 Paris Marathon winner, leads the women’s field.
At the same time, Jepchirchir, 22, will return to defend her title having won the IAAF world half marathon title in Cardiff earlier this year.
She cruised to victory at this race one year ago in a performance that signalled her international breakout. Jepchirchir, who is based in Iten, clocked 1:07:17 last year to slice more than two minutes from the previous course record.
Jepchirchir improved to 1:06:39 in February in Ras Al Khaimah six weeks before her triumph in Cardiff. Her outing on Saturday in the northern Czech city will be her first since her victory in the Ottawa 10km on 28 May.
Her chief rivals will be Ethiopians Muliye Dekebo and Aberu Mekuria.
The men’s field boasts four runners who have beaten the one-hour barrier.
Kenyan Barselius Kipyego, the runner-up last year in 1:00:59, has won two of his three half marathon outings this season, including his 1:00:30 victory in Ceske Budejovice on June 4.
The 23-year-old improved his personal best to 59:30 in April at the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon where he finished second.
Adugna Takele of Ethiopia has also run well this year having improved his best to 59:40, also in Prague. More recently he was fifth at the Ethiopian Olympic Trials 10,000m contest where he clocked 27:20.65.
Meanwhile, 27-year-old Geoffrey Kusuro, who represented Uganda at the 2014 IAAF World Half Marathon championships, comes armed with a 59:43 best set last year.
-Report compiled from iaaf.org