KUNMING – Defending champion and course record-holder Olkeba Jene of Ethiopia will face stiff opposition when he defends his title at the SCO Kunming International Marathon, as the organisers have assembled the deepest field ever witnessed in the four-year history of the World Athletics Bronze Label road race on Sunday.
The 22-year-old scored a 2:20:49 victory last year, winning by seven seconds while setting the course record in the southwestern city of China. He improved his personal best to 2:14:18 this season from a ninth-place finish in Chongqing in March, but this weekend he faces a field that includes nine sub-2:10 runners.
Jene’s compatriot Bazu Worku is the fastest entrant in the field thanks to his 2:05:25 career best set nine years ago in Berlin. The 29-year-old has been struggling to find his best form so far this year as he failed to break 2:10 in all the three races he enrolled in and most recently achieved a season’s best of 2:10:56 to finish fourth in Beijing last month.
Bahrain’s Marius Kimutai, a 2:05:47 performer, has been enjoying better form in 2019. It will also be his fourth race of the year and the 26-year-old has already collected two victories in Taiyuan and Hangzhou plus a fourth-place finish in Chongqing.
Other sub-2:10 runners toeing the line include Ethiopia’s Dereje Debele, whose PB of 2:07:48 was recorded six years ago in Dusseldorf, Mathew Kipsaat of Kenya, winner of this years’ New Taipei City Marathon with a PB of 2:09:19, and fellow Kenyan Evans Sambu, who achieved a PB of 2:09:05 in Gongju in 2017.