Mark Kiptoo will be out to extend Kenya’s dominance at the Paris Marathon when he leads his compatriots on Sunday in the men’s race.
Kenyan men have won four of the last five editions of the race but the women have found the going rough in Paris, winning just two of the last six editions, with Priscah Jeptoo winning in 2011 after Martha Komu’s triumph in 2008.
Vincent Kipruto won the mens race in 2009 in 2hrs, 5:47min before Ethiopian Tadesse Tola (2:06:41) won in 2010 before Kenya’s Benjamin Kiptoo (2:06:29) went for the 2011 honours.
But it’s Stanley Biwott’s victory with a course record-breaking time of 2:05:11 in 2012 which stood out before Peter Some missed a chance to improve the time by seconds, winning in 2:05:38 last year.
Besides the 37-year-old Kiptoo, who is eying his maiden victory, focus will be on Luka Kanda, Gideon Kipketer and Mika Kigen as they go head to head with multi-Olympic champion, Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele who is making his debut over the distance.
It will be Kiptoo’s second marathon after clocking an impressive 2:06:16 in his debut in Frankfurt last year.
Kiptoo won the 2007 and 2011 World Military 5,000m title besides the 2011 Commonwealth Games bronze and 2012 Africa gold over the distance.
Kanda will be looking for victory in another European capital city, having won in Rome two years ago with a PB of 2:08:04.
The 21-year-old Kipketer hopes to bounce back after failing to finish at the Tokyo Marathon last month while Kigen warmed up for the race with a 1:00:44 half-marathon time in Paris earlier this month.
With 23 gold medals from Olympics, World Championships, World Cross Country, Africa Championships, All African Games and World Indoor, Bekele’s name is already etched in history books. However, it’s left to be known whether Bekele will leave a big impact in the streets of Paris.
Bekele has suffered from injuries and a lack of motivation in recent years, but training for the marathon has renewed his focus on the sport.
“I’ve changed some things,” the 31-year-old told race organisers. “I now run further and work less on my speed. I didn’t have the speed I needed to win at the cross-country race in Edinburgh in January. It was the result of a lack of specific training. I am really preparing for the marathon.
Other debutants in the race are Ethiopia’s Mule Wasihun won the 2008 race, beating the likes of Azmeraw Bekele and Mike Kigen. Behailu Ketema, who finished fifth in that race in 1:00:58, will also be contesting his first 26.2-mile race.
Kenya’s Valentine Kipketer will spearhead the women’s title assault, having sliced off her personal best in each of her completed marathons to date.
After a 2:28:02 debut in Hamburg two years ago, she won in Mumbai last year with 2:24:33 and atoned for failing to finish at the Moscow World Championships with a 2:23:02 victory in Amsterdam.
Kipketer will also be seeking support from compatriot Flomena Cheyech as they expect still challenge from Kenyan-born Martha Komu and Sarah Chepchirchir. Cheyech also won two marathons in 2013. Her best result was a 2:24:34 lifetime best to triumph in Vienna.
Komu won the Paris Marathon in 2008 with a PB of 2:25:33 and represented Kenya at the Beijing Olympics, finishing fifth. The 30-year-old now runs for France and is the only former winner competing at the 2014 edition.