Spanish city stages marathon and half-marathon with super-strong line-ups on Sunday

It has been dubbed the “best race in history”. The organisers of this weekend’s Valencia Marathon and Half Marathon are describing it as “la gran carrera”, or the great race. The line-ups, they add, are “fenomenal”. Whether you speak Spanish or not, it is not hard to understand that something special is in store on Sunday.

The marathon field features 25 men who have run inside 2:08, while the women’s race has 19 competitors who have broken 2:25. The half-marathon, meanwhile, has 12 men who have run inside 60 minutes in the past and five women who have clocked inside 68 minutes. This does not include the number of exciting debutants over the distances too.

“I believe on Sunday we are going to have not just the best race of the year but most probably the best in history,” says Marco Roig, who helped put together the fields for Sunday’s event, which features the 40th anniversary of the marathon.

“This year has been extremely painful because everyone wanted to come to Valencia,” he adds. “It is the city of running and the city of records but we have had to turn some runners away due to us reaching our limits.”

Valencia has, of course, has already earned a reputation for being one of the world’s epicentres of distance racing following its staging of the World Half Marathon Championships in 2018. Then in October this year the city staged a track meeting that saw world records fall in the men’s 10,000m courtesy of Joshua Cheptegei and women’s 5000m via Letesenbet Gidey.

Neither Cheptegei nor Gidey are in Valencia this weekend – the latter being a late withdrawal due to the current civil war in Ethiopia. Notable names like world marathon record-holders Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei are also missing, of course. But despite that the line-ups are stacked.

The men’s marathon field is led by Birhanu Legese, an Ethiopian who ran his 2:02:48 PB when close behind Kenenisa Bekele in Berlin last year. Fellow Ethiopian and world champion Lelisa Desisa and Kenyan Lawrence Cherono – the Boston and Chicago winner last year – are also among the contenders.

In addition there is 2:03:51 man Kinde Atanaw and 2:04:02 runner Leul Gebreselasie of Ethiopia. Further entrants with 2:04 PBs include Kaan Kigen Ozbilen, Hayle Lemi, Reuben Kiprop and Abebe Negewo.

Look out too for Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer, who is making his debut, whereas there is British interest from Derek Hawkins, Scott Overall, Matt Clowes, Peter Le Grice and Mike Kallenberg, who will either be trying to bag the 2:11:30 Olympic qualifying time before their trials race in March or simply looking for a PB.

Joyciline Jepkosgei and Peres Jepchirchir lead the women’s marathon line up. Last year Jepkosgei was narrowly outside the New York City Marathon course record when clocking 2:22:38 in the Big Apple. Fellow Kenyan Jepchirchir, of course, is fresh from her victory in the World Half Marathon Championships in Gdynia in a women’s-only world record of 65:16 (below).

Also running are sub-2:20 competitors like the Ethiopian quintet Ruti Aga, Birhane Dibaba, Zeineba Yimer, Tigist Girma and Degitu Azimeraw, whereas Kenya’s Fancy Chemutai makes her debut following great recent form in the half-marathon.

East Africans will be expected to dominate but American Jordan Hasay, a 2:20:57 runner at her best, will be hoping to re-establish herself after an injury-hit period. Irish duo Aoife Cooke and Ann Marie McGlynn will also be looking to stake their claim for Olympic selection.

The elite athlete budget has been helped by sponsorship from the Trinidad Alfonso Foundation. This means the half-marathon fields are every bit as impressive as the marathon.

Kiplimo vs Kandie over 13.1 miles

Jacob Kiplimo from Uganda and Kibiwott Kandie of Kenya finished one-two at the recent World Half Marathon Championships and they will renew their rivalry in Valencia. They will be joined by Kenyans Bedan Karoki, Bernard Ngeno, Alexander Mutiso and Stephen Kiprop but one of the most exciting entries is 21-year-old Kenyan Rhonex Kipruto, who ran 26:24 to break the 10km world record on the roads in Valencia at the start of this year (see below), whereas Julien Wanders heads the European challenge.

Rhonex Kipruto via 10K Valencia Ibercaja

In the women’s half-marathon, Senbere Teferi has run 65:32 for the distance but possibly the most intriguing entry of the entire event is fellow Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba, the world 1500m record-holder, who is racing for the first time in over a year.

Added to this, Emily Sisson will be attacking Molly Huddle’s US record of 67:25. Not surprisingly there is also a sizeable Spanish entry with many of them looking for Olympic qualifying marks.

Other targets on Sunday include the world half-marathon records of Geoffrey Kamworor (58:01) and Anabel Yeshaneh (64:31), plus course records held by Jemal Yimer (58:33) and Joyciline Jepkosgei (64:51)

In the marathon the world records of Kipchoge (2:01:39) and Kosgei (2:14:04) are going to be tough but organisers are not ruling them out, while the course records are Kinde Atanaw Alayew (2:03:51) and Roza Dereje (2:18:30).

Don’t rule out records

Paco Borao, the race director, told AW: “The objective in Valencia is beating records. Athletics needs records and if they could be made this year it will be one of the most important achievements ever made in Valencia.

“In the half-marathon we are looking for the most important records – the world records. In the marathon the world records will be very tough but the athletes will do their best to first achieve a race record and if possible achieve a new world record. Here in Valencia we always look for records.”

Time will tell if Sunday sees the greatest road race in history but with such strong fields, hopefully good weather and modern racing shoes, it is likely to produce some swift times.

The half-marathon begins at 8am local time (7am in the UK) on Sunday December 6 with the marathon starting at 8:30am (7:30am in the UK). Look out for AW’s online coverage with twitter updates and an online report after the action.

You can watch the races live here if you are in the UK or they are on Eurosport from 6:45am (UK time).

If you are outside the UK, viewing details are here.

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