About 13,600 runners will gather in the Spanish capital to take part in the 40th Rock ’n’ Roll Madrid Marathon on Sunday, April 23 when an interesting Kenya-Ethiopia battle is on the cards for the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
The Ethiopian contingent will be headed on this occasion by Bonsa Dida, who finished 10th at the recent IAAF World Cross Country Championships Kampala 2017.
Dida holds a modest 2:11:55 personal best for the classic distance set earlier this year in Mumbai but the kind of form he showed barely four weeks ago in Kampala suggests he’s in the form of his life and should be regarded as one of the favourites.
Dida will be joined by his compatriot Feyera Gemeda, who holds a career best of 2:09:42 set in Dongying last May. Other Ethiopians on show include Abebe Negewo Degefa (2:08:46 back in 2013), Seboka Nigusse (2:09:14 in 2015) and Belete Gezu Mekonen, who will be racing his third marathon since December; he won in Tel Aviv in February in 2:12:12. All of them will be looking to end Kenya’s string of seven consecutive wins since 2010.
The Kenyan challenge will be topped by Ronald Kipkoech Korir, who set his personal best of 2:07:29 on his debut at the distance in Frankfurt in 2014. His last marathon outing was a 2:09:01 runner-up finish at the Joongang Marathon in November.
Lawrence Kimaiyo (2:07:01) Michael Chege (2:09:12) will also be in contention. Nicholas Kipkemboi, whose 2:06:33 personal best in Dubai in 2013 makes him the fastest in the field, clocked 2:12:48 in Madrid last year to finish fifth. Hosea Maiyo will try to reign again on Spanish soil after his victory in San Sebastian last November in a PB of 2:11:51.
Uganda’s Thomas Ayeko has contested just one marathon to date, running 2:12:17 on his debut in Rennes in 2015. Since then he has reduced his half marathon PB to 1:00:26 and so could be set to reduce his best over the 26.2-mile distance.
The altitude of Madrid, which is 695 metres above sea level, and the undulating profile of the race route has meant that the course record remains a relatively modest 2:09:15, set by Kenya’s Ezekiel Kiptoo Chebii three years ago.
Elizabeth Rumokol is the leading athlete in the women’s race. The 34-year-old, who represented Kenya at the 2003 World Cross Country Championships, ran a remarkable 2:29:32 in the altitude of Nairobi in late 2015 and will be aiming to break the current course record of 2:32:04, set in 2009 by Turkey’s Mehtap Dogan-Sizmaz.
Her fellow Kenyans Joan Kigen (2:31:27) and Rodah Tanui (2:33:22) are also entered while Poland’s Monika Stefanowicz should fight for a top-three spot. She managed her best ever clocking last year thanks to a 2:28:26 effort in Hamburg four months prior to her 23rd place at the Rio Olympics in 2:32:49.
The Ethiopian contingent is compounded by Kuftu Dadiso (2:35:45), marathon debutante Almaz Fekade and world U18 1500m champion Bedatu Hirpa.
In addition to the marathon, there will also be a half marathon with an entry list even bigger (more than 15,000 participants) and a domestic 10km race. The half marathon line-up features some quality Kenyan athletes such as the in-form Joseph Kiptum, a convincing winner at last month’s Azkoitia-Azpeitia in 1:00:37, runner-up Titus Mbishei (1:01:13) and 2010 world cross-country champion Joseph Ebuya, who returns to competition after a three-year break.
Weather forecasters are predicting a sunny day with temperatures ranging between 15-17C by the time of the event and no likelihood of rain during the races.