Ethiopia’s Mekuant Ayenew returns to the Chinese capital aiming to regain the title he took three years ago at the Beijing Marathon

The 28-year-old Ayenew, who set his 2:09:00 PB at the 2017 Prague Marathon, clocked 2:11:09 to earn his first international marathon victory in 2016 at the most prestigious road running race in China, which was first launched in 1981.

It will be Ayenew’s third appearance in Beijing as he also finished seventh with 2:15:16 two years ago. His familiarity of the course, which starts at the landmark Ti’anmen Square and ends outside the Olympic Stadium, will be a big advantage for Ayenew. But retaining the title will not be an easy task as Ayenew will face a quality field that includes several sub 2:05 runners.

Fellow Ethiopian Endeshaw Negesse is the fastest man on paper with a personal best of 2:04:52 set in Dubai back in 2013. Negesse came close to that mark two years later when he won in Tokyo with 2:06:00, but his only race since then was a 17th-place finish in Dubai in 2:26:27.

Kenya’s Mathew Kipkoech Kisorio, meanwhile, is a serious title contender in Beijing. The 30-year-old improved his PB to 2:04:53 last year when he finished third in Valencia and clocked 2:06:36 to finish second at the Paris Marathon last April.

The men’s field also includes Bazu Worku of Ethiopia, a three-time winner of the Houston Marathon with a PB of 2:05:25, as well as Kenyan duo Evans Korir and Solomon Kirwa Yego, who both have sub-2:07 career-best times and both have broken 2:08 in 2019.

Mulu Seboka of Ethiopia is the fastest entrant in the women’s field. The 35-year-old owns a PB of 2:21:56, set in Dubai in 2015, and has won three straight races in China since 2018 with two victories in Dalian and one in Shenzhen. She clocked 2:27:19 in May to retain her title in Dalian.

Compatriots Sutume Asefa and Letebrhan Haylay are also among the favourites. With a best of 2:24:00, Asefa is the slightly quicker of the two women but is yet to win a marathon, while Haylay set a PB of 2:24:47 to break the course record at the Dongying Yellow River Marathon last year.

Kenya’s 2018 Daegu Marathon champion Janet Jelagat Rono, a 2:26:03 performer at her best, is another woman to watch.

Li Zhixuan is China’s best hope for the title on Sunday. The 25-year-old is the fastest Chinese woman this year as she clocked 2:26:15 in Nagoya in March, improving her PB by more than four minutes. She will be hoping to improve on her sixth-place finish from last year.

The last time Chinese runners took the top honours at Beijing Marathon dates back to 2013, when Zhang Yingying clocked 2:31:19 to extend China’s winning streak in the women’s race to 22 years.

posted Friday November 1st