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Lane infringement rule changes now in force

The easing of the rules regarding lane infringements are among the competition rule (CR) and technical rule (TR) changes approved by the World Athletics Council which come into force from today (1 November 2021).

These were agreed in March and July 2021 and are available for download in the Book of Rules. Area and Member Federations are notified of all rule changes directly after the Council meeting at which the decision is made.

Lane infringement rule changes had been on the agenda of the World Athletics Technical Committee since January 2018. At that year’s World Athletics Indoor Championships in Birmingham in the March, there were 21 disqualifications relating to lane violations, including four in two races, and since then there has been a heightened debate about these rules.

Rather like race walk transgressions, some one-off lane infringements are now permitted, but shall result in disqualification if they are repeated by the same athlete or within the same relay team at any time during the rounds of the same event.

Two further exceptions have been added to the list of scenarios (under TR 17.4) where a lane infringement shall not lead to immediate disqualification. These are: 17.4.2 – while racing in lanes and the inner lane line, the border or kerb is touched once on a bend; and 17.4.3 – while racing not in lanes and one step is taken on or completely over the inner border line or kerb.

A second occurrence of the act described in these new clauses, in the same event by an individual or any team member, shall result in disqualification. A record of such transgressions shall therefore be carried forward to later rounds of that event and indicated on start lists and results, in a similar fashion to the separate yellow card notices for breaches of discipline.

Athletes racing in lanes shall continue to be disqualified if they are judged to have fully stepped inside the inner border line or kerb, even only once. Or if either of the acts described in 17.4.2 or 17.4.3 are judged to bring positional advantage or impede another athlete.

Other rule changes include:

• CR 19.4 – Visual indications of the validity of a field event trial, other than red or white flags, may now be approved

• CR 31.3 – More detail is set out on the requisite doping control process for world record ratification, including the need for samples to be analysed for Erythropoiesis Stimulating Agents in endurance events from 400m upwards

• CR 32 – The 50km road race, 35,000m race walk and 35km race walk shall be added to the list of recognised world record events for men and women, with the men’s 30,000m race walk deleted from the list once the first men’s 35,000m mark is established

• TR 11.3 – Now specifies the conditions required for legitimate performances in events staged indoors in facilities which may not otherwise comply with the rules of indoor competition. Clause 11.3.4 specifies that marks made on indoor oval tracks longer than 201.2m, but not greater than 400m, shall be regarded as valid for all but world indoor records. (Meaning, for example, that an outright world record may be set on an indoor 300m track. The previous TR 11.3 is unchanged and renumbered to 11.4)

• TR 30.1.1 – (as reported in 2020 under then rule 185.1) Long and triple jump take-off failure shall be re-defined to include any breaking of the vertical plane of the take-off line. TR 29.5 further specifies that a plasticine indicator board may be used to assist judges, and that this should be set at an angle for 90° (rather than the previous 45°)

• TR 32.12 – A definition is added of the ‘stationary position’ required for athletes to take after entering a throwing circle and before commencing their trial

Separate Competition and Technical Rule downloads (plus updates) are also available in the Library. From the Library, select Constitution & Book of Rules, then Book C: Competition. This is where any rule amendments agreed at Council Meetings will be first posted.

Bashir Abdi eyes record in Rotterdam after Olympic bronze

Olympic bronze medallist Bashir Abdi plans to attack the European record while Marius Kipserem will be on the hunt for a hat-trick when the 40th NN Marathon Rotterdam, a World Athletics Elite Label road race, takes place on Sunday (24).

Kenya’s Kipserem broke the course record with 2:04:11 to win in 2019 and he leads the entries, but Belgium’s Abdi, who ran 2:04:49 in Tokyo last year, will be looking to challenge him as he attempts to beat the 2:04:16 run by Kaan Kigen Ozbilen in 2019.

“Rotterdam is the city of the marathon for me,” said Abdi. “If I have any chance of beating the European record anywhere, then it is here, but I will have to do my very best for it.”

Ethiopia’s Solomon Deksisa also has a sub-2:05 PB, having clocked 2:04:40 in Amsterdam in 2018, and they will be joined in Rotterdam by athletes including Emmanuel Saina and Gideon Kipketer of Kenya, who have respective PBs of 2:05:02 and 2:05:51, plus sub-2:07 runners Dawit Wolde, Kebede Wami Tulu and Limenih Getachew Yizengaw of Ethiopia.

Kenya’s Bornes Kitur, who ran her best of 2:21:26 in Ljubljana in 2019, and her compatriot Stella Barsosio feature in the women’s race, with Barsosio looking to go one better than her second place finish in 2019, when she ran her PB of 2:23:36.

They will line up alongside athletes including Ukraine’s Nataliya Lehonkova, Norway’s Runa Skrove Falch and Sweden’s Louise Wiker.

Letesenbet Gidey and Yalemzerf Yehualaw target world half marathon record in Valencia

The Valencia Half Marathon Trinidad Alfonso EDP witnessed a men’s world record last year as Kibiwott Kandie ran a stunning 57:32. This time the women’s world record is the target and organisers have assembled a star-studded line-up for the World Athletics Elite Label road race on Sunday (24).

Ethiopians Letesenbet Gidey and Yalemzerf Yehualaw will clash in a long-awaited showdown. Gidey is the world 5000m and 10,000m record-holder, while Yehualaw ran 1:03:44 in August, and although that time will not be ratified as a world half marathon record the two athletes will now go head-to-head in Valencia as they target the 1:04:02 run by Ruth Chepngetich in Istanbul in April, a mark which is pending world record ratification.

The 23-year-old Gidey has competed sparingly this year but managed to set a world 10,000m record by running 29:01.03 in Hengelo before claiming bronze at the Tokyo Olympics.

While the diminutive Yehualaw is an accomplished half marathon specialist, with nine outings over the last three seasons, Gidey will tackle the distance for the first time but her impressive 44:20 world best for the 15km set in Nijmegen in 2019 suggests she might become the first debutante to set a world record for the distance.

Reportedly, each of the Ethiopian aces will be joined by their respective pacemakers – Mebrahtu Kiros and Genetu Molalign – in a battle which promises to be fierce, while the organisers will provide an official pacemaker for the rest of the elite targeting a 1:05 clocking.

That second group looks set to be led by Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi, the winner in 2019 thanks to a 1:05:32 time; her compatriot Hawi Feysa, fresh from a 1:05:41 PB in Copenhagen last month; Sheila Chepkirui, runner-up last year in a career best of 1:05:39; and her fellow Kenyan Brenda Jepleting, a 1:06:52 performer.

After last year’s climax, when no fewer than four men ran inside the then world record of 58:01, one of them – Rhonex Kipruto – will be the marquee athlete this time.

The Kenyan star, who clocked a 57:49 debut last year, also excelled in Valencia in January 2020 when he set the world 10km record of 26:24. He couldn’t place higher than ninth at the Tokyo Olympics over 10,000m but proved to be in top form in September when he recorded 26:43 at a 10km road race in Herzogenaurach.

While a men’s world record assault is not planned on this occasion, the pacemakers are set to go through the opening 10km in 27:30 on the hunt for a sub-58:00 finish time. In addition to Kipruto, Sunday’s field includes another four Kenyan athletes with PBs under 59 minutes: Philemon Kiplimo, who was fifth last year in Valencia in a career best of 58:11, plus Kelvin Kiptum (58:42), Abel Kipchumba (58:48) and Felix Kipkoech (58:57). Yet Kipruto’s toughest opposition might come from the two-time world 5000m champion Muktar Edris.

The 27-year-old Ethiopian posted a promising debut over the distance last November by clocking 59:04 in New Delhi and should play a key role on Sunday, while the European challenge will be headed by Norway’s Sondre Moen and Spain’s Carlos Mayo.

Weather forecasters predict an ideal morning for running, with a 13ºC temperature and a very slight breeze. After the four records set in Valencia last year – the men’s 10km, half marathon and 10,000m, plus the women’s 5000m – the city could witness another world best on Sunday.

Reuben Kipyego and Ruth Chepngetich target Chicago Marathon crowns

Kenya’s Reuben Kipyego and Ruth Chepngetich head the fields for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday (10), with Sara Hall and Galen Rupp leading US hopes at the World Athletics Elite Platinum Label road race.

After action in Berlin and London in recent weeks, Chicago is the next race in a busy period of major marathons and the Boston event follows just one day later. The weather in Chicago looks set to be warm, with temperatures of around 21°C expected for the start of the elite races at 7:30am local time.

The last edition of the Chicago Marathon in 2019 saw a world record fall as Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei clocked 2:14:04 to take 81 seconds from Paula Radcliffe’s 2003 mark. This time her compatriots Chepngetich, who won the 2019 world title, and Vivian Kiplagat are among the athletes in the spotlight.

Chepngetich sits fourth on the women’s marathon all-time list thanks to the 2:17:08 PB she set when winning in Dubai in 2019 and she ran a world half marathon record in Istanbul in April with 1:04:02. The 27-year-old was unable to finish the Olympic marathon in Tokyo but is looking forward to her US debut race in Chicago.

“I have never raced in the States and making my debut in such a great race like the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is more than a dream to me,” she said. “I will give all myself trying to run as fast as possible.”

Hall will be among those looking to challenge her. The US athlete beat Chepngetich at last year’s London Marathon, as the pair finished second and third respectively behind Kosgei, and Hall went on to run a PB of 2:20:32 in Arizona a couple of months later. Now she has her eye on Deena Kastor’s 2:19:36 US record, should the conditions allow.

“When I thought about where I wanted to chase the American record, I thought it would be more exciting to do it at home, in the US, and Chicago is such an epic race,” she said.

The other sub-2:25 women in the field are Kiplagat, the USA’s Keira D’Amato and Ethiopia’s Meseret Belete. Kiplagat, who ran her marathon PB of 2:21:11 in 2019, clocked 2:39:18 in Eldoret in June but showed her current form with a personal best performance in the half marathon of 1:06:07 in Copenhagen last month. Like Hall, D’Amato also ran a PB in Arizona in December, clocking 2:22:56, while 22-year-old Belete – who was sixth at the 2018 World Half Marathon Championships and ran a world U20 best of 1:07:51 later that year – has a marathon PB of 2:24:54 set when finishing fourth in Houston last year.

Among those joining them on the start line will be the USA’s Emma Bates, Diane Nukuri and Lindsay Flanagan.

Kipyego ready to turn up the heat

Kipyego ready to turn up the heat With his PB of 2:03:55 set at the Milan Marathon in May, Kipyego goes into the Chicago race as the second fastest man in 2021. The 25-year-old made his marathon debut in Buenos Aires in 2019, clocking 2:05:18, and later that year he improved to 2:04:40 to win in Abu Dhabi, despite having started the race as a pacemaker. He also seems unfazed by the warmer than expected temperatures, simply replying: ‘No problem’ at the pre-race press conference when asked about the weather.

Ethiopia’s Seifu Tura, meanwhile, explained how he is not as comfortable in the heat but he will go into the race looking to build on the 2:04:29 PB he set when finishing fourth in that same Milan Marathon in May. He also has experience of the Chicago event, having finished sixth in 2019 in 2:08:35.

Rupp leads US hopes as the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist returns to action after his eighth place in the Tokyo Olympic marathon nine weeks ago and third-place finish in the Great North Run half marathon in 1:01:52 last month. Eighth fastest among the entries, his PB of 2:06:07 was set in Prague in 2018 but he will be looking to regain the crown he claimed in 2017.

Kenya’s Dickson Chumba is also a former Chicago winner, having triumphed in 2015, and he set his PB of 2:04:32 in the same city the year before that. The fourth sub-2:05 runner in the field is Kengo Suzuki, who broke the Japanese record with his 2:04:56 to win the Lake Biwa Marathon in February.

Kenya’s Eric Kiptanui is also one to watch. Having helped to pace world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge in the past, the 58:42 half marathon runner made his own marathon debut last year and improved to 2:05:47 to win in Siena in April. “I was so happy to run 2:06 for my first marathon,” he told NN Running Team. “What it proved to me was, yes, I was in good shape but that I had the mentality to perform over the marathon distance.” Looking ahead to Chicago, he added: “I aim to run 2:03/2:04 but my first priority is to win the race.”

Ethiopia’s Chalu Deso and Shifera Tamru have respective bests of 2:04:53 and 2:05:18, while Ian Butler, who is coached by former world record-holder Steve Jones and balances his running with his job as a teacher, is the second-fastest US runner in the field with a PB of 2:09:45 set in Arizona last year.

World Cross Championships in Bathurst postponed

World Athletics and the local organising committee (LOC) for the World Athletics Cross Country Championships Bathurst 2022 have agreed to postpone the championships, which was scheduled to be held in Bathurst, Australia on February 19, 2022.

The event will now take place on February 18, 2023 in Bathurst.

The postponement is due to the biosecurity measures and travel restrictions currently in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Australia. Australian borders are closed to international visitors.

“Athletics Australia and the LOC are delighted that World Athletics and its partners have agreed to the postponement, which allows us to plan and deliver a world-class celebration of cross country running in February 2023. This is one of the most exciting athletics events in the world and the iconic course at Mount Panorama will see some incredible racing,” said LOC Co-Chair and Athletics Australia Board Member Jill Davies.

“We would like to thank World Athletics and the New South Wales Government for their continued confidence in our ability to deliver a world-class event in February 2023. We will continue to work hard over the next year to be ready to welcome the world’s best cross-country athletes and athletics fans to Bathurst for a global celebration of cross country running.”

The World Athletics Cross Country Championships is regarded as the toughest race on the calendar, combining the world’s greatest distance runners and challenging terrain to create a unique spectacle in sport. The 2023 event will be the 44th edition of these storied championships and will welcome more than 550 elite athletes from more than 60 countries to the famed Mount Panorama venue at Bathurst.

“We’re looking forward to hosting the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in 2023,” said Mayor Ian North of Bathurst Regional Council. “Mount Panorama is a world-famous international racing track venue, attracting competitors from across the globe and is the perfect backdrop for the most important cross-country event in the world.”

World Athletics and the LOC are committed to the responsible planning and delivery of the event, which includes ensuring that athletes from all international federations are able to participate and enjoy an experience that is befitting of a World Athletics Series event. The health and safety of the entire running community and the host region is at the forefront of this postponement. While it is acknowledged that international events are currently scheduled for early 2022 in Australia, the 14-day quarantine requirements for international visitors to Australia are not practical for a one-day event.

The World Athletics Cross Country Championship Bathurst 2023 will comprise the U20 men’s (8km) and women’s (6km) races, the universal mixed relay (8km) and the senior individual men’s and women’s races (10km). These World Championship events will be supported by a series of mass participation races.

Information regarding ongoing event planning, including ticket sales, course information, mass participation events and entertainment, will be provided regularly on the event website and social media channels.

Mike Powell’s 8.95m record leap becomes permanent as sculpture inaugurated in Brussels

Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a world record breaker?

As of today, visitors to Laeken, adjacent to Brussels’ King Baudouin Stadium, have the permanent opportunity to compare themselves with the 8.95m long jump world record of USA’s Mike Powell.

Powell’s leap, the current world record, which turned 30 years old earlier this week (30 Aug), was set in an epic competition with Carl Lewis at the 1991 World Athletics Championships in Tokyo, Japan.

‘August 30, 1991, Tokyo’

This afternoon Ans Persoons, Deputy Mayor for Urban Planning, and Benoit Hellings, First Deputy Mayor for Climate & Sports, on behalf of Philippe Close, Mayor of the City of Brussels, officially inaugurated ‘August 30, 1991, Tokyo’, a new sculpture in Brussels, at the crossroads of art and sport. In attendance were Powell and the sculptor Pierre Larauza.

The giant artwork, which is a permanent installation, represents the take-off and, at the exact heights and positions of his shoes, the length of Powell’s historic travel through the Tokyo night sky, and his touchdown in the landing pit at 8.95m.

Visitors to the monumental artwork can also measure their athleticism. Built permanently alongside the sculpture is a 40-metre long jump runway and landing pit. The artist invites and encourages all visitors, young and old, to jump and measure themselves against the immensity of Powell’s world record.

The City of Brussels particularly appreciated this urban proposal to open up art to sport and sport to art, and decided to acquire it in 2018, to enrich the public space in an original and interactive way.

Test leap taken in Paris

The sculpture and the public’s engagement with it were tested in 2019, at the Nuit Blanche de Paris, an annual all-night arts festival in the French capital. The artistic director of the festival, Didier Fusillier, selected the work for the 5 October event that year. Larauza’s sculpture was temporarily constructed in the middle of the Parc de la Villette, and the French Athletics Federation kindly loaned a portable long jump runway to allow for the public’s participation.

Today’s inauguration is the culmination of a creative journey for Pierre Larauza which was initiated in 2011. The sculpture took several years to reach completion through a long documentary process (decomposition of the movement, reconstitution of the original shoes from archive photographs, meeting of the artist and the athlete in Los Angeles in 2019).

The construction work in Brussels started in June 2021, thanks to the close collaboration of several partners such as Constructiv and the Centre FAC (Centre de Formation en Alternance de la Construction), Demo JV, Lesuco and le Royal Excelsior Sports Club Brussels. The sculpture is supported by World Athletics Heritage.

Events concluded today with Powell offering encouragement and jumping advice to those visiting the installation during competitions organised by Bruno Schroeven, sporting director of the Royal Excelsior Sports Club.

Tokyo Olympics preview: 3000m steeplechase

Women’s 3000m steeplechase

The standout steeplechaser over the past few years hasn’t quite been so dominant in 2021, throwing this event wide open going into Tokyo.

Beatrice Chepkoech broke the world record in 2018, clocking 8:44.32, and then went on to win the world title in 2019 with a championship record of 8:57.84, finishing almost five seconds ahead of the rest of the field.

She finished fourth at the 2016 Olympics and at the 2017 World Championships, despite losing precious time when missing one of the barriers. She rebounded well, and throughout 2018 and 2019 she won 17 of her 19 races. She now also owns half of history’s 14 sub-nine-minute performances in the steeplechase.

But despite a promising start to her year, which included a world record of 14:43 over 5km and an indoor 3000m PB of 8:31.72 just three days later, the Kenyan hasn’t won any of her steeplechase races in 2021. Her season’s best of 9:04.94 was set when finishing a distant second at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Monaco.

Her compatriot Hyvin Kiyeng was the winner on that occasion in what turned out to be an eventful race. Kiyeng misjudged her remaining laps due to a human error with the lap counter, so she started her final kick one lap early. Upon realising her mistake after hearing the bell for the actual final lap, she somehow managed to muster enough energy to hold on to her lead, winning in a season’s best of 9:03.82.

Kiyeng won the world title in 2015 and went on to take Olympic silver in 2016 and world bronze in 2017. She finished fourth on her season debut in Doha earlier this year but has gone on to win the rest of her races, beating Chepkoech on all three occasions.

And if she can beat a world record-holder and world champion after having messed up her finishing kick, as she did in Monaco, Kiyeng will be a big threat in Tokyo. She could even finally improve on the PB of 9:00.01 she set back in 2016.

The fastest of the entrants, somewhat surprisingly, is African Games champion Mekides Abebe, who set an Ethiopian record of 9:02.52 at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Doha. Her only other races this year have been against domestic opposition, but she won both the Ethiopian Championships in Addis Ababa and the Ethiopian Olympic Trials in Hengelo.

Despite being just 19 years of age, Abebe is actually the oldest of Ethiopia’s steeplechase representatives. She’ll be joined in Tokyo by Lomi Muleta, who set a PB of 9:14.03 this year, and Zerfe Wondemagegn, who set a national U20 record of 9:16.95 in Hengelo. All three women represented Ethiopia at the 2019 World Championships, so, despite their young age, they will have already gained some valuable experience ahead of making their Olympic debut.

US champion Emma Coburn will once again be a medal contender. Olympic bronze medallist in 2016, world champion in 2017 and world silver medallist in 2019, Coburn is always in the mix at major events.

She fell at the last water jump in her final pre-Olympic race at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Monaco, eventually finishing fourth in 9:09.02. She had watched Kiyeng’s blunder from afar and had started to reel in the Kenyan, though there’s also no guarantee Coburn would have won on that occasion had she stayed on her feet. Regardless, assuming she makes no such mistake in Tokyo, Coburn will be in the medal hunt.

Gesa-Felicitas Krause is another strong championship performer. The German won European golds in 2016 and 2018, sandwiched between world bronze medals in 2015 and 2019. She heads to Tokyo with a season’s best of 9:09.13, though it’s highly likely she’ll improve on that; in all but one of her 10 seasons between 2010 and 2019, Krause’s fastest times of each year were set in championship finals.

Bahrain’s Winfred Yavi just missed out on the medals at the World Championships in Doha, but gained some form of redemption when she returned to the Qatari capital for the Wanda Diamond League meeting earlier this year as she came away with a PB of 9:02.64, beating Kiyeng, Coburn and Krause.

Others who could feature in the final include North American record-holder and 2017 world silver medallist Courtney Frerichs, Slovenian record-holder Marusa Mismas-Zrimsek, 2014 Commonwealth champion Purity Kirui, Oceanian record-holder Genevieve Gregson of Australia, Chinese record-holder Zhang Xinyan and Ugandan record-holder Peruth Chemutai.

AIU details comprehensive testing programme ahead of Tokyo Olympics

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) has revealed details of its testing programme in the lead-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The AIU’s testing programme is highly targeted and intelligence-led and is aimed at the elite Registered Testing Pool that consists of 782 athletes from 77 countries including 315 athletes who are a part of an extended road running pool. The focus is on the quality of testing, developing individual testing plans for each athlete, while also maintaining the volume that is required for a comprehensive programme in a global sport like athletics.

In the first six months of this year (to 15 July), the AIU collected over 3800 samples from tests conducted across the world. More than 2700 of these samples were collected out-of-competition. The remaining 1100 samples were collected through in-competition testing.

David Howman, Chair of the Athletics Integrity Unit said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges, but it has not affected the AIU’s determination to protect the integrity of athletics.

“While we have certainly had to adapt the way we are running our testing programme, our clear view was that as much testing as possible should continue while respecting all the applicable health and safety protocols. I believe that the details of our testing activities, from the start of 2020 to the middle of July 2021, will reassure clean athletes competing in Tokyo that we have done all we could to provide a level playing field.”

In 2020, the AIU collected over 4700 samples from athletes from 90 countries including 4204 samples collected out of competition.

While the in-competition testing opportunities were limited due to cancellations of events, the AIU focused on no-notice out-of-competition testing which led to a number of important cases being prosecuted.

These numbers are approximately 70% of the out-of-competition testing figures in a comparable year like 2018, which also did not have any major athletics event.

Testing during the Games

The AIU is working with the International Testing Agency (ITA) in the implementation of the pre-Games and Games-time testing programme organised on behalf of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Approximately 300 pre-competition tests are planned to be conducted at the Athletes Village prior to the start of the athletics events on 29 July, while 500 in-competition tests are planned to be conducted at the two venues in Tokyo and Sapporo, which will host the road events.

Download testing overview

Download press release

Athletics Integrity Unit

The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) is the independent body created by World Athletics that manages all integrity issues – both doping and non-doping – for the sport of athletics. The remit of the AIU includes anti-doping, the pursuit of individuals engaged in age or competition results manipulation, investigating fraudulent behaviour with regards to transfers of allegiance, and detecting other misconduct including bribery and breaches of betting rules. It is the AIU’s role to drive cheats out of our sport, and to do everything within its power to support honest athletes around the world who dedicate their lives to reaching their sporting goals through dedication and hard work.

Wesley Korir headlines Beirut Marathon

Kenya’s Wesley Korir will be the star attraction at the 16th edition of the BLOM Bank Beirut Marathon on 11 November, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.

Korir, a winner of the Boston Marathon in 2012, has not raced since April 2017 but after taking time out from his political career, the 35-year-old is planning to get back to winning ways at next month’s race in the Lebanese capital.

“Everything is going well, I’m trying to get in shape after politics and run full-time again,” said Korir. “Getting a win in Beirut will give me a boost for me as I get back to the top level.”

To succeed he will have to be at his best, with Ethiopia’s Bazu Worku, who has a best of 2:05:25 and was a winner at the Houston Marathon this year, also in the field.

Kenyans Ezekial Omullo and Andrew Ben Kimutai, who have both run below 2:09, are also sure to feature. Omullo is a three-time winner of the Warsaw Marathon, his most dominant win coming in 2016 when he set his current PB of 2:08:55, while in April this year he cruised to victory at the same race in 2:11:17. Kimutai is also a formidable performer, the 29-year-old finishing third at the Seville Marathon earlier this year where he set his current PB of 2:08:32.

There will also be a duo of exciting prospects in Uganda’s Felix Chemonges and Morocco’s Mohamed Ahmami, who bring impressive pedigree at the shorter distances. An interesting debutant at the distance is Kenya’s Kalipus Lomwai, who was a pacemaker at the race last year but carries a classy half marathon best of 1:01:22, which he ran to win in Hamburg in July.

Others of note include Bahrain’s Benson Seurei, who brings the best track pedigree to this test of endurance, the 34-year-old boasting an 800m personal best of 1:45.67. Since moving to the marathon he has proved himself a capable performer, finishing seventh in Barcelona earlier this year in 2:11:27.

Lemi Berhanu and Wanganesh Mekasha notch Ethiopian Double in Hengshui

Pre-race favourite Lemi Berhanu of Ethiopia lived up to expectations to register a convincing victory in the men’s race while his compatriot Waganesh Mekasha rallied to take the women’s title at the 2018 Hengshui Lake International Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label road race, in Hengshui, China, on Saturday (29).

Berhanu clocked 2:08:51 while Mekasha upset a strong field in 2:25:57, a lifetime best.

Berhanu was the star attraction in the field, with a personal best of 2:04:33 from the 2016 Dubai Marathon and with marathon titles from Boston, Dubai, Xiamen and Zurich under his belt. It was his first appearance in Hengshui and the 24-year-old stayed in the leading group patiently for the first half of the race before making his move near 30 kilometres.

He broke clear for a sole lead and soon extended the margin to more than 20 metres. When he reached the 36 kilometres mark in 1:48:40, Berhanu was still well on track to challenge the course record of 2:07:38 set by Ethiopian Markos Geneti in 2014.

However, it seemed Berhanu’s focus was just on the win instead of the record. With a comfortable lead in hand, Berhanu eased down in the final kilometres. Running relaxed, he even started his celebration on the home stretch, breaking the tape in 2:08:51 with a smile on his face.

It was Berhanu’s third marathon victory in China following his 2:13:10 win at the 2014 Taiyuan Marathon and the 2:08:27 victory in Xiamen last year.

Herpasa Negasa, another Ethiopian, finished second in 2:09:14, improving his career best by 63 seconds. Kenya’s Dominic Ruto finish third in 2:09:49, which is 41 seconds slower than his PB set in Rome last year.

The 26-year-old Mekasha upset a quality field, which included sub-2:25 runners Workenesh Edesa of Ethiopia and Kenyan Caroline Kilel as well as past winner Meseret Legese..

Mekasha emerged triumphant from a two-woman duel in the last five kilometres. She and her countrywoman Edesa led the race to 38 kilometres before the 26-year-old Edesa, whose PB of 2:24:04 was set in her victory at the 2016 Xiamen International Marathon, pulled away and soon built an advantage of some 15 metres.

But Edesa didn’t enjoy the sole lead for long. Mekasha reeled in Edesa metre-by-metre and passed the latter at the 40 kilometre mark. Looking back to check Edesa’s position from time to time, Mekasha left no chance for her rival to turn the tables. She kept pushing ahead and wrapped up the victory with the second fastest winning time in the race’s seven-year history, 14 seconds shy of the 2:25:43 course record set by Kenya’s Agnes Jepkemboi Kiprop in 2015.

It was the second victory of the year over the classic distance for Mekasha and also the second time for her to improve her lifetime best in 2018. Five months ago the rising Ethiopian cut more than 17 minutes off her PB to win the Padova Marathon in 2:29:18. Since her marathon debut in Singapore in 2014, the efficient Mekasha, who was the fourth finisher in the U20 race at the 2011 World Cross Country Championships, has collecting three titles from four races.

Edesa finish second in 2:26:28, which was the first marathon she finished since she took the second place in Xiamen last January.

Gebiyanesh Ayele clocked 2:26:54, improving her PB by five and a half minutes, to complete a sweep of podium for Ethiopia. It is the first time for Ayele to dip under the 2:30 barrier whose previous PB of 2:32:25 was achieved from her third finish at the 2017 Guangzhou Marathon.