Kimetto returns in Shanghai International Marathon

Kimetto returns in Shanghai International Marathon

Organisers of the Shanghai International Marathon have assembled a star-studded field, spearheaded by former world record-holder Dennis Kimetto, in the hopes of improving the course records of both races on Sunday.

Although Kimetto has not finished a marathon since April 2016, the second fastest runner of all time, whose lifetime best of 2:02:57 was beaten by Eliud Kipchoge just two months ago, is still seen as the biggest hope to break the 2:07:14 course record set in 2015.

He even stands a chance of rewriting the Chinese all-comers’ record of 2:06:19 set by compatriot Moses Mosop in Xiamen, but his primary goal will simply be making it to the finish line.

Ethiopia’s Tsegaye Mekonnen, the second fastest entrant in the field, will also want to prove his competitiveness in Shanghai. The 23-year-old set his personal best of 2:04:32 when winning the 2014 Dubai Marathon, the fastest time in history by an U20 athlete.

He came close to that mark two year later with his third-place finish in Dubai in 2:04:46 and last year he took a 2:07:26 win in Hamburg. But his only outing in 2018 has been a 20th-place finish at the Tokyo Marathon in 2:10:26.

Mekonnen’s compatriot Seyefu Tura, on the contrary, has enjoyed a successful year so far. The 21-year-old clocked 2:04:44 to finish seventh at the Dubai Marathon in January, improving his PB by more than four minutes, and went on to grab his first marathon title in Milan in April in 2:09:04.

The field includes several other sub-2:10 runners such as Ethiopia’s Yitayal Atnafu, runner-up at the 2018 Houston Marathon with a PB of 2:07:00, and Kenya’s Asbel Kipsang, a 2:07:30 performer who will be competing in Shanghai for the third consecutive year after finishing second and third in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Sub-2:20 runners Yebrgual Melese and Sarah Chepchirchir will face one another in the women’s race.

Ethiopia’s Melese trimmed more than three minutes off her PB to finish third in Dubai in 2:19:36. She also clocked 2:27:47 to finish second at the Yellow River Estuary International Marathon in Dongying, China. Sunday’s race will be her third marathon of the year.

The 34-year-old Chepchirchir of Kenya is the second-fastest woman in the field. Following a solid season in 2017 when she registered her big PB of 2:19:47 from her victory at the Tokyo Marathon and successfully defended her title in Lisbon, Chepchirchir will be keen to continue her winning streak in her first race in 2018.

Kenya’s Flomena Cheyech, 36, is the other title contender whose PB is faster than the 2:21:52 course record in Shanghai set by Tigist Tufa of Ethiopia three years ago. Cheyech clocked a PB of 2:21:22 to finish third in Paris last April and finished fourth over the classic distance at the IAAF World Championships in London. Her most recent performance was a 2:33:01 clocking at the Nagoya Women’s Marathon in March.

Helen Tola Bekele, who will celebrate her 24th birthday next week, is another woman to watch. The rising Ethiopian has improved her PB each season since making her marathon debut in 2015, recently reducing it to 2:22:48 in Berlin.

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