Reigning champions Stephen Mokoka of South Africa and Ethiopia’s Roza Dereje will return to Shanghai to defend their titles at the 2017 Shanghai International Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (12).
It will be the seventh consecutive year for Mokoka to run in Shanghai. Last year the 32-year-old enjoyed a solitary lead in the last seven kilometres to win in 2:10:18. He also achieved back-to-back victories in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, he registered a personal best of 2:07:40 but finished second behind Kenya’s Paul Lonyangata, whose winning time of 2:07:14 has since stood as the course record.
Mokoka also finished third in Shanghai in 2011 and the following year is the only time that he failed to step onto the podium as he had to settle with the fourth place.
If Mokoka can successfully defend the title, he will become the first runner to win a fourth time in the race’s 18-year history. Apart from Mokoka, Ethiopia’s Gashaw Asfaw won three straight titles in the men’s race from 2008 to 2010 while local runner Zhang Shujing won the women’s race in 2001, 2002 and 2005.
However, it will not be easy for Mokoka to make history on Sunday as the race organisers have brought together a strong line-up with five sub-2:07 runners.
The field is headed by Ethiopia’s Dino Sefir, whose 2:04:50 clocking at the 2012 Dubai Marathon made him the eighth-fastest man in history at that time. But the 29-year-old has struggled with injuries and inconsistent form in recent years, only clocking 2:14:26 to finish eighth at the Boston Marathon in April.
Sefir’s compatiot Endeshaw Negesse also holds a fast personal best of 2:04:52, which dates back to 2013 when he finished fourth in Dubai. Two years ago Negesse clocked a second career best of 2:06:00 to win the Tokyo Marathon before finishing fourth at the 2015 Shanghai Marathon. He has not registered a valid marathon result yet this season following his withdrawal at the Lake Biwa Marathon in March.
Ethiopia’s Abayneh Ayele, who just celebrated his 30th birthday last Saturday, is arguably the most in-form runner on the list in 2017. He clocked 2:07:42 to finish fifth in Paris seven months ago, 57 seconds shy of his PB set in Dubai last year.
The field also includes Kenya’s Peter Kimeli who has a personal best of 2:05:38 from his victory at the 2013 Paris Marathon and 43-year-old veteran Mariko Kiplagat Kipchumba, who clocked 2:06:05 back in 2012.
THREE FORMER CHAMPIONS RETURN IN WOMEN’S CONTEST
The women’s race is also set to witness a close competition as the field is led by three former champions.
Defending champion Dereje scored an upset victory last year as she trimmed nearly five minutes from her PB to win in 2:26:18. This season she further improved her career best to 2:25:17 en route to a third place finish at the Vienna Marathon in April.
The 33-year-old Nguriatukei Rael Kiyara, whose PB is 2:25:23 set in 2011 when finishing fourth in Eindhoven, is the first and only Kenyan woman to win in Shanghai. Two years ago she clocked a winning mark of 2:26:23 but last year the former winner in Madrid, Graz, Padua, Luxembourg and Lanzhou failed to defend her title, only finishing fourth in 2:27:53.
Kiyara also added Chongqing Marathon to her title collection this year when she recorded a convincing victory of 2:26:22 in March.
The 30-year-old Tigist Tufa of Ethiopia, the sixth place finisher at the 2015 World Championships, will also toe the line three years after achieving her PB of 2:21:52 to set the course record in Shanghai in 2014.
Tufa won the 2015 London Marathon in 2:23:22. She returned to London this April but only clocked 2:25:52 to finish eighth.
The field also includes Kenya’s Margaret Agai, runner-up of last year, whose PB of 2:23:28 was set in 2013 when winning the Daegu Marathon. She managed to catch Dereje in the final kilometre last year but had to concede the title to the more in-form Ethiopian.