Two-time Paris Marathon champion Paul Lonyangata is expected to defend his title when he lines up for the 43rd edition of the race on Sunday.
Lonyangata won last year’s race in 2:06:25 beating Mathew Kisorio (2:06:36) to second while Ernest Ng’eno was third in 2:06:41.
Betsy Saina won the women’s race after clocking 2:22:56 ahead of her compatriot Ruth Chepng’etich - who ran 2:22:59 - while Gulume Chala was third after clocking 2:23:06.
Lonyangata, who has been training in Kaptagat, Elgeyo Marakwet County, is optimistic that he will do well despite falling down last week and injuring his arm.
He told Nation Sport that he had completed his training schedule when he slipped and fell but was insistent that he would fight to defend his title.
“My training went on well and I can compare it with the previous years where I finished my build up and won the races. The line-up looks strong but I will be doing my best to defend my title,” he said.
Lonyangata will be competing against compatriots Augustine Choge (59:26), Hillary Kipsambu (2:07:20), Ishmael Bushendich (2:08:18), Barselius Kipyego (2:08:42) and Morris Gachaga (59:22).
Choge, who trains with the Global Sports Communication, said he hopes to do well on Sunday as he is still acclimatising to marathon races which he began taking part in just recently.
The athlete, a middle distance track specialist and former world junior 1500m and 3,000m champion, seeks to shine after failing to finish the race in Chicago Marathon last year.
“I developed a problem last year during the Chicago Marathon which forced me to drop out. I have done good training with my training mates and I’m looking forward to a good race where I want to perform better,” said Choge.
The Kenyan men’s line-up will face stiff competition from Ethiopians Asefa Mengistu (2:04:06) and Yemane Tsegay (2:04:48) who are both sub-2:05 athletes.
Former World Half Marathon bronze medallist Sally Chepyego leads the women category as she eyes a podium finish. She will be competing against her compatriot Betty Lempus and Pascalia Kipkoech from the Gianni Demadonna stable.
“My build up for the race started back in January and I’m now happy because I finished the program injury free,” said Chepyego.
“The line-up looks competitive but I will be doing my best because I also want to lower my personal best in the race. I have never competed in Paris and I’m really excited to be among the few from the country who will be running on Sunday.”
She has been training with world beaters including men’s marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, three-time world half marathon champion Geoffrey Kamworor and two-time world marathon champion Abel Kirui.
Having trained and worked in Japan for more than 10 years, the athlete believes that with good facilities runners could benefit significantly from better preparations ahead of key races.
“We have limited training facilities in the country but I believe if this is improved, our athletes will perform well in various international races,” said the athlete who runs under NN group from the Netherlands.
She finished third in this years’ Barcelona Half Marathon in February after running 1:08:30 a race won by Ethiopia’s Roza Dereje in 1:06:01 while Dibaba Kuma was second in 1:06:45.
“I was using the Barcelona Half Marathon race in February as part of my build up and after emerging third, I was able to work on the weak points that I saw and I’m just hoping for the best,” said Chepyego, who has a personal best of 2:23:15.
The start list in the women’s category also features Ethiopians Gelete Burka (2:20:45) and Azmera Abreha (2:21:51).