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Jepkosgei leaves worries behind for debut at Hamburg Marathon

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- World half marathon record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei said her injury worries are behind her ahead of her debut marathon race in Hamburg on Sunday.

Despite running a slow race in New York in March, which she won in 70:07 minutes, the Kenyan says her focus has always been on marathon since she announced it in December of last year.

"This season my preparations were all focused on debuting in the marathon.

"It was great to win the half marathon in New York. It helped me gauge how my body feels," Jepkosgei said on Friday.

"I believe in my training. I can confirm that the twisted leg during training has since healed and as shown in New York, [and I] am back to running at full throttle," she added.

The women’s contest will also feature Portuguese star Jessica Augusto, who won the race in 2017 clocking 2:25:30.

Madai Perez of Mexico (2:22:59), Japan’s Tomomi Tanaka (2:23:19) and Dibabe Kuma of Ethiopia (2:23:34) are among the favorites whereas Kenya’s hope rests on Jackline Chepngeno (2:24:38) and Jepkosgei.

Jepkosgei’s debut over the 42.2km distance has been fervently anticipated since the Kenyan, 25, produced her sensational 2017 season, breaking six world records.

Four of those came in one race, the Prague Half Marathon, where she clocked 30:05 at 10km, 45:37 at 15km and 1:01:25 at 20km en route to a 1:04:52 performance over the full distance.

She clipped another second from that mark in Valencia the following October, lowering the world record to 64 minutes and 51 seconds where it currently stands.

In 2017, again in Prague, Jepkosgei shattered the 10km record at the Prague Grand Prix, clocking a phenomenal 29:43.

Slowed in part by illness, her 2018 season didn’t produce the same record-shattering achievements, but she did race to silver at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia in March.

Hamburg organizers were quick to draw a parallel to another high profile marathon debut on their course, that of Eliud Kipchoge in 2013, when the Kenyan ace cruised to victory in 2:05:30.

But Jepkosgei insisted that parallel wasn’t on her mind when choosing the setting for her debut.

"My manager and my coach both told me that Hamburg has a fast and flat course," she explained.

"I would like to achieve a time of around 2:22. I have completed my preparation.

"I have to wait and see how my body reacts to the course.

"I have to determine my final goal and let me see how it pans out," the Kenyan added.


Steeplechase champion Kemboi to plunge into marathon in Hamburg

by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Former world and Olympic steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi will be making his marathon debut in Hamburg on Sunday.

With the 37-year-old having carved a splendid career on track in the water and hurdle race, many fans will be eager to see how he will take up the new challenge running the longer 42km distance against some of the strongest and fastest marathon runners.

"I have already won the Olympics, Worlds, Commonwealth Games and Africa title," Kemboi said on Friday.

"What remains is to venture into the new territory and see where I rank.

"It will determine how long my career will be on athletics," he said.

Kemboi has immersed himself in long run trainings in Eldoret and hopes he will emerge in the German city with an enhanced reputation to stamp his foot on the marathon circuit.

Kemboi has only raced one 10km road race last year in Italy which he won, but has no experience in half or full marathon course.

"There is a moment for every new start. I will seize my chance and see how I fare. I don’t care who I will be up against," he said.

However, there will be no shortage of rivals for the Kenyan.

His compatriot and former two-time world champion Abel Kirui and Uganda’s former world and Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich are among the leading entrants for the Hamburg Marathon.

Other standout entrants in the men’s race include Ethiopians Ayele Abshero (2:04:23) and Tadu Abate (2:06:47) and Kenya’s Laban Korir (2:05:54).

Kiprotich, the 2012 Olympic and 2013 world marathon champion, will return to the northern German port city for the third time, after finishing second in 2017 and fifth in 2018.

The 29-year-old, who is the national record holder at 2:06:33, clocked sub-2:08 performances in both of his Hamburg appearances.

The fastest runner on the start list is Ayele Abshero, who clocked 2:04:23 in his marathon debut at the 2012 Dubai Marathon.

The Ethiopian returns after finishing third last year.

Kirui, the world champion over the distance in 2009 and 2011, has already announced his intention of chasing the course record of 2:05:30, which was set by Eliud Kipchoge in his marathon debut in 2013.

"I’m focusing so much on Hamburg Marathon because I want to break the course record on Sunday," Kirui said.

The 36-year-old former Olympic silver medalist from London 2012 said he is gearing to regain his top form as he seeks to run one of his fastest races. Kirui holds a personal best time of 2:05:04 from Rotterdam almost 10 years ago.

"It will be a big challenge for me as I will be preparing to beat Eliud Kipchoge course record.

"It will be a big show and I welcome fans to cheer me on," he said.

Compatriots Jonathan Korir and Amos Mitei, who have personal bests of 2:06:51 and 2:07:28 respectively, are also among the title favorites.

Japan’s Taku Fujimoto, who clocked his personal best of 2:07:57 at the Chicago Marathon in 2018, will also be in the race.



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