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Linet Masai and Ezekiel Kemboi to debut in Amsterdam marathon

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Former world champions Linet Masai and Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya plan to break into the marathon elite runners after retiring from the track competition.

Masai, a former World 10,000m champion, will have a baptism by fire when she reignites her rivalry with former Olympic champion Meseret Defar at the Amsterdam marathon in Netherlands in Oct. 21.

Masai has not been active for the last two years as she delivered her baby. However, she feels it will be good to plunge to the deep end of athletics and the Dutch capital will provide good ground for her hunt as she takes her career a notch higher.

“I am ready for the marathon,” she said. “My management has been able to get me a race in Amsterdam and I want to see how my body will react to it. I have hopes of doing well, but am also not certain how it will go. It is my first marathon race.”

In Amsterdam, Masai will face twice Olympic 5,000m champion Meseret Defar, with whom they have dueled a lot on the track ever since she broke the duck at the 2007 World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa.

Both Masai and Defar will be making their marathon debut in Amsterdam on Oct. 21 after battling loss of form and shaking off motherhood rust.

The Ethiopian has run several half-marathons with a best of 66:09 for second in the Great North Run in 2013.

Compatriot Tadelech Bekele, who won last year in 2:21:54 and went 14 seconds quicker for third and a personal best time at the London Marathon in 2018, will be in her way.

Masai, the 2009 world 10,000m champion who has run 68:11 for the half is also keen to break the 42km jinx.

Other athletes to watch out for include Meseret Belete, who set a world junior record of 67:51 in Copenhagen this year and was eighth at the World Championships.

Former world junior cross country bronze medalist Jackline Chepngeno will also be eyeing victorious debut in marathon. Ethiopia’s Guteni Shone, who has a PB of 2:23:32, could also challenge.

Miranda Boonstra, who has a best of 2:27:32, leads home hopes. Meanwhile, Olympic winner and four time world champion in steeple Ezekiel Kemboi plans to make his debut in the marathon next year.

“I was motivated by [Eliud] Kipchoge with whom we were together in 2003 during the World Championships. I will be venturing into the 42km race, where I want to perform well just like in the track. My first marathon race will be in Europe and I’m yet to confirm it,” said Kemboi, who ran a 66:52 half-marathon this year before three steeplechase races culminated with a sixth at the Kenyan Championships (8:34.90).

Kemboi is yet to settle on which city course he intends to debut in marathon.

Kenya’s Wanjiru recovers from injury, targets New York marathon debut

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Former London marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru has recovered from a stomach problem that forced him to drop out of the Great North run in Newcastle and will be ready to challenge for honors at the New York marathon on Nov 4.

The 26-year-old has struggled since winning the London race in 2017, but believes his worst days are over as he intensifies his training in Nakuru in preparations for the New York marathon, where he eyes his first win in U.S. soil.

“I had a stomach infection during the Great North Run in September, which denied me the chance to win the race,” said Wanjiru on Sunday in Nakuru.

“However, I’m back in training and fully focused on New York marathon in just a few weeks’ time.”

On Saturday, Wanjiru was in top form as he run over 35km with his group of training mates and believes he will increase the mileage as he approaches the November date.

Wanjiru has been a shadow of his former self this year as he failed to defend his crown in London, finishing seventh in a race that was won by Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge.

However, the 2016 Amsterdam champion believes he has what it takes to claim his maiden New York Marathon title.

“I look forward to running with the champion Geoffrey Kamworor and other world champions. I have no pressure going into the race and that is huge bonus to me,” said Wanjiru.

“I’m very happy to be part of the elite team at the New York marathon. Training is going on well and I’m getting ready to make my debut in New York,” he added.

The 26-year-old has a personal best time of 2:05:21, which he set in Amsterdam in 2016.

He was a surprise winner in London when he clocked a time of 2:05:48 for victory ahead of Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele in 2017.

However, he failed to show his best show when he returned to London for the World Marathon Championships last year, where he was eighth clocking 2:12:16.

He started the year with poor show in Houston half marathon, where he clocked 62:55 minutes in position 25.

He also ran in Netherlands over 10km. But it is the challenge he anticipates in New York that inspires him. Champion Geoffrey Kamworor will be the man to beat alongside Wanjiru.

There is also Boston Marathon bronze medalist Shadrack Biwott as well as American Bernard Lagat, who will be making his debut in the marathon.



Mirriam Wangari and Cosmas Kipimo Lagat lead
Kenya contingent in Hengshui Marathon in China

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Gunsan Marathon champion Mirriam Wangari and Cosmas Kipimo Lagat lead a five-member Kenya delegation to Hengshui Lake International Marathon in China, eyeing to break the course records.

The race staged in Hengshui city is an IAAF Silver Label road race. Speaking in Nairobi, Wangari, a veteran in China marathons, says she has recovered well after clinching the Gunsan Marathon in South Korea in April.

“My focus is now on winning the Hengshui race,” Wangari told Xinhua in Nairobi.

“I love running in China because of their good organization and the international stars that are paraded in the marathons. I believe with good weather I will be able to improve on my personal best time of 2:07:53 set in Xiamen in 2015.”

The 39-year-old is not about to hang her running spikes. She targets Hengshui Marathon course record of 2:25:43 set by compatriot Agnes Jepkemboi Kiprop in 2015.

Wangari debuted late at the 2012 Xiamen Marathon where she was fifth.

In 2015, she was second at the Dongying Yellow River Marathon and was fifth at the Xiamen race in 2015. In 2017 she was third in Nagano Marathon in Japan and fifth at Argentina’s Buenos Aires Marathon.

In Hengshui, she will team up with Caroline Kilel, whose best time of 2:22:34 was set in 2013 in Frankfurt.

Since her marathon debut in 2003, the 27-year-old has won a series of titles including the 2011 Boston Marathon. Her last victory was in Daegu, South Korea two years ago clocking 2:27:39, but she has never managed to break 2:30 since.

In the men’s race, Kenya’s Cosmas Lagat, 27, is the man to watch. He owns a lifetime best of 2:08:14 from his second victory in Sevilla in 2016.

He also took top honors in the Spain in 2014 with a time of 2:08:33, but has never competed in China.

“I know there are top Ethiopians on the start list. But they have fast time, which will not count as we start in Hengshui Marathon. I have done well in training and believe I have the extra motivation to win the race,” said Lagat in Nairobi.

The field also includes Kenyan duo Dominic Ruto (2:09:08) who won in Rome last year before setting the course record at the Beirut Marathon, and Mathew Kipsaat (2:09:19), who won the 2016 Tunis Marathon and 2017 Las Palmas Gran Canaria Marathon.

But neither of the duo has managed to dip under 2:10 in 2018. Ethiopia will be led by Lemi Berhanu, 24, who has a personal best of 2:04:33 set at the 2016 Dubai Marathon where he finished second.

It will be his fourth marathon race in China since his debut over the classic distance in 2014.

He claimed the Taiyuan Marathon title that year and went on to finish 15th at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing in 2:17:36. Last year, Berhanu clocked 2:08:27 to win the Xiamen Marathon.

On Saturday, he will attempt to break the 2:07:38 course record set by his compatriot Markos Geneti in 2014.

Endeshaw Negesse, also from Ethiopia, is the second fastest entrant with a best time of 2:04:52 from his fourth place finish in Dubai back in 2013.


Lucy Wambui and Geoffrey Gikuni lead Kenya charge at German Mountain Race

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- World champion Lucy Wambui and her Kenyan compatriot Geoffrey Gikuni believe they will withstand the storm and retain the International Hochfelln Mountain Race, the penultimate stop of the 2018 World Cup, in Bergen, Germany on Sunday.

Wambui recently won in the Sierre-Zinal race in Switzerland and will be making her first appearance at this race in Germany.

“It is down to the preparations and training. I believe everyone has entered the race to win, but I have the stamina and endurance to survive the challenge. It is a hard competition and only the strongest survive,” Wambui said on Saturday.

At last year’s World Championships in Premana, Italy, Wambui won her first world title getting the better of seven-time world champion Andrea Mayr of Austria.

Mayr didn’t wait long to get revenge, taking nearly four minutes out of the Kenyan at the Kitzbuheler Horn Race a few weeks later.

The pair will battle it out again at Hochfelln this year, with eight-time winner Mayr looking to avenge her defeat at the 2018 World Championships in Andorra two weeks ago.

“The line-up is always strong each year. The pressure is on the champion to retain the title and I will start the race with that in mind,” said Wambui.

The strong women’s field also includes Ivana Iozzia of Italy, a two-time winner of the Zermatt Marathon, Challenge Stellina Susa winner Sarah McCormack of Ireland, top Italians Gloria Guidici and Camilla Magliano, 2017 German mountain running champion Sarah Kistner, who has twice finished second in Bergen, and 2016 Sierre-Zinal winner Michelle Maier, currently Germany’s top female mountain runner.

In the men’s field Gikuni will be looking for another victory to add to his 2018 wins but will face stiff challenge from compatriot Timothy Kimutai and Eritrea’s Filmon Abraham.

The 2017 World Long Distance champion Francesco Puppi from Italy, seventh at this year’s World Championships ahead of the Kenyan, will also be aiming for the top place of the podium in Bergen. The top German athlete is Toni Palzer.


Kenya’s Kipchoge relishes Berlin world record win, no plans for next marathon

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Berlin marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge says he will handle the pressure that comes with breaking the world record by remaining true to himself.

Speaking in Eldoret, Kipchoge said he will take time off the recover after the grueling challenge in the German capital and will not be rushing to announce his new venture until early next year.

“I will handle the pressure and remain normal. I want to get back to my life and train normally,” Kipchoge told Xinhua on Saturday. “It was first a dream but now after doing it, I believe. It is now a reality that I broke the world record.”

The 33-year-old, who has only lost one out of the 11 races back in 2013, says he abhors celebrity lifestyle and he is contended to leave the way he likes.

“I don’t like to gloat and live large. I believe the record was set in Berlin and all the 45 million Kenyans and other fans saw it. I prefer to remain silent because it was a record that Kenya will be proud of and own it for some time. It was my work to go for it, now Kenyans can be happy for it,” he added.

The Kenyan raised the bar slashing off one minute and 18 seconds off compatriot Dennis Kimetto’s previous world record of 2:02:57, which he set in winning the Berlin marathon in 2014.

“I wanted to run a personal best and that is what that record is to me,” he added.

Kipchoge’s coach and former steeplechase world champion Patrick Sang paid tribute to his athlete’s commitment to the course and discipline as the major contributor to his startling performance, which has seen him win 11 marathons in 12 attempts.

“There is no secret about him other than to say he is a disciplined runner. He is honest and always has his focus and plans. From a humble beginning, he has built his name and it is important that he safeguards it,” he said.

Berlin women champion Gladys Cherono said she is happy Kipchoge set the world record and will one day want it to her illustrious cup.

“I was happy to win my own race. But what Kipchoge did was extra ordinary. He did well and has inspired me to one day go for the women’s world record,” she said.

That will be a tall order for Cherono, whose winning time of 2:18:10 set a new women’s record at the German capital.

Cherono improved on her previous best time of 2:19:25 set in winning the first of her three Berlin titles in 2015. Current world marathon record in women stands at 2:15:25 set by Paula Radcliffe in 2003.



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