The streets of Nairobi will come alive Sunday morning when close to 20,000 participants, among them 200 elite athletes, do battle at the 15th edition of the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon.
The start and finish for 42 kilometre marathon races, the half marathon (21km) and wheelchair (21km) races have been moved away from Uhuru Highway outside the Nyayo National Stadium and the stadium’s arena.
This year, the races will start and finish along Haile Selassie Avenue just outside Railway Nairobi Club, while the Family 5km Run and 10km races will start at Uhuru Highway Bridge and end along Uhuru Highway opposite Parliament buildings.
The races will for the first time see participants snake through the iconic Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) grounds, a distance that has been created to compensate for the section of the old course from Nyayo National Stadium to Nairobi Central Business District.
Both half and full marathon races have attracted both seasoned and upcoming runners, including former champions and some athletes who have played second fiddle for long and who are out to make amends.
Among the star-attraction are winner of 2015 edition Joshua Kipkorir from Kaptagat, who is out to make history as the first athlete to win the men’s title twice.
But Kipkorir faces a tough battle from his elder brother Ronny Kipkoech, who finished second at Lagos City Marathon in February, the 2016 Los Angeles Marathon champion Weldon Kirui and 2012 Bogota Marathon champion Cheruiyot Kirui.
It will be Weldon’s third appearance at the Stanchart Nairobi marathon where he finished third in 2014 and seventh last year.
Others are Shadrack Kimaiyo, who finished second in 2015 and Hillary Kiplimo, a third place finisher in the 2015 and 2016 races.
Also in the mix are the 2010 Nagano Marathon champion Nicholas Chelimo, Arnold Kibet, who is garning for improved show after finishing 20th last year, Geoffrey Terer, who has season best of 2:23:10 from Provo, USA in June, and Simon Muthoni, who finished second at Buenos Aires Half Marathon in September.
“It’s good to make history and I am glad to give the event another short but I know competition will be tough,” said the 23-year-old Kipkorir, who finished second at Mumbai Marathon in January and 10th at Gyeongju International Marathon last month in China.
“I have trained well in Kaptagat since returning from China,” Kipkorir said on Thursday.
Kipkorir’s brother Kipkoech is fresh from finishing second in 2:17:05 at Metz Marathon on October 8, losing to Ethiopian Girma Abraham in 2:12:27.
Weldon, who failed to defend his Los Angeles Marathon title in March, finishing fourth, said he he is ready to make amends after finishing third twice.
“I hope to be third time lucky after two attempts,” said Weldon.
The 2015 Belfast Half Marathon champion Mercy Jemutai, who is fresh from posting personal best 2:36:56 at Wuhan Marathon in China, is among the star attraction in the women’s marathon.
The men’s half marathon race is also dotted with talent but an interesting entry is that of the Patrick Kipng’eno, who is fresh from defending his Ndakaini Half Marathon title in September.
Kipng’eno will face among others Benard Korir, who is also from winning Tallinn Half Marathon in Estonia.
Gilbert Korir and Faith Chepkoech all from Bomet are out to defend their men and women’s 10km races.
Traffic to and out of the city will be diverted to alternative roads as the roads along the designated marathon route will remain closed from 4am to 1pm on Sunday.
The affected roads include sections of Mombasa Road, Uhuru Highway, Wangari Mathai (Forest) Road, Kenyatta Avenue, Haile Selassie, University Way and Upper Hill.
Sections within CBD Kenyatta Avenue and Haile Selassie and University Way will remain closed until 11.30am on Sunday.