Nairobi, Nov 17 (IANS) Former Tokyo Marathon champion Sarah Chepchirchir and Flomena Cheyech will lead Kenya’s charge at the Shanghai International Marathon on Sunday.
The two will also try to test the course record of 2:21:52 set by Tigist Tufa of Ethiopia three years ago. However, they must first prove their recovery after injuries spoilt their forms in 2018, reports Xinhua news agency.
Chepchirchir said in Nairobi that she is eager to compete for the first time this year, hoping a good show in Shanghai will see her return to the World championships and Olympic Games in 2020.
“I want to see how my body will react after staying out for so long. I believe it will be important to win and prove my status again,” said the 34-year-old.
“But it will not be about me alone, because we have other top runners who have the lust for victory. It will be down to how one is prepared on the day and strategy.”
On the other hand, Cheyech, the former Commonwealth Games champion, has had a torrid season this year, only finishing the Nagoya Marathon in March in the 19th place with a slow time of 2:33:01.
“I have been out of competition for long because of the injury I got in Japan. But it has since healed and I am back in competition,” said Cheyech after finishing second in 71:05 in the Eldoret Half Marathon in October.
But she said she is ready for the Shanghai contest. “Shanghai is the next stop for me and hopefully I will be able to run well and win the gold medal.”
Ethiopia’s Yebrgual Melese will be the one to beat. She trimmed more than three minutes off her personal best time to finish third in Dubai in 2:19:36, and clocked 2:27:47 to place second at the Yellow River Estuary International Marathon in Dongying, China. And Sunday’s race will be her third marathon of the year.
Helen Tola Bekele, who will celebrate her 24th birthday next week, is another woman to watch. The Ethiopian has improved her best time each season since making her debut in 2015, recently reducing it to 2:22:48 in Berlin.
The men’s race features a star-studded field, spearheaded by former world record holder Dennis Kimetto of Kenya, who remains as the biggest hope to break the 2:07:14 course record set in 2015.
Kimetto, the second fastest runner of all time, has not finished a marathon since April 2016, and his career best of 2:02:57 was beaten by Eliud Kipchoge two months ago.
Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Mekonnen, 23, is the second fastest entry, setting his personal best of 2:04:32 in winning the 2014 Dubai Marathon. And his compatriot Seyefu Tura will also be in the field.
The elite field also includes other sub-2:10 runners such as Ethiopia’s Yitayal Atnafu, runner-up at the 2018 Houston Marathon in 2:07:00, Kenya’s Asbel Kipsang, a 2:07:30 performer competing in Shanghai for the third time after finishing second and third in 2015 and 2016.