As befits a man who has run the marathon faster than anyone else in history, Geoffrey Mutai is hardly a slouch at the shorter distances, as his lifetime best of 27:19 for 10k shows. This prowess will be put to the test in the last but one event of the RunCzech Running League when the Kenyan goes to the start line of the Birell 10 km Race in Prague’s Wensceslas Square on the evening of Saturday, September 6.
Mutai’s marathon best is 2:03:02 in Boston 2011, though the nature of the course means it cannot be recognised as an official world record. Mutai will face a range of talents, some better known than others. Building up to the defense of his TCS New York City Marathon (Guest Race of RunCzech Running League 2014) title two months later, his competitors include compatriot Geoffrey Ronoh, the surprise winner of another RunCzech Running League, the Mattoni Olomouc Half Marathon on June 21, where he left behind Wilson Kipsang, the marathon world record holder. Ronoh has confirmed he is in a good shape and has improved his personal best (59:45) at Wörthersee Half Marathonu (AUT), defeating again Wilson Kipsang. This will be his debut at 10k, though he was timed at 28:16 en route to his half marathon win in June, indicating his potential for going well under 28:00 for the distance.
Another more experienced runner as well as the last year’s 10k winner is Daniel Chebii. He won the Birell Prague Grand Prix by just one second and his time of 27:35 placed him fourth on the world rankings for 2013 and four seconds ahead of Geoffrey Mutai’s best 10k for the year. Chebii also finished a second outside the course record of 27:34, set by fellow Kenyan Philemon Limo in 2011.
Jana Moberly, the elite athletes manager reveals: “I promised to Geoffrey Ronoh already in Olomouc that I would invite him as an elite athlete. Though his personal performance is not under 28 min I do believe he will beat the best on his day. Having him together with Geoffrey Mutai and Daniel Chebii, I think we can expect an exciting event, and maybe there will be some more suprises.”
If Turkey’s Polat Kemboi Arikan has recovered from his fourth place in the 10,000m at the European Championships on August 13, the Kenyan-born runner should also be one to watch for a podium place, given his best of 27:38.81 on the track. His best for 10k on the road is 28:17 but that goes back four years. Arikan’s morale should also be boosted after setting a Turkish record of 61:22 to finish 16th at the World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen in late March. Leading the Ethiopian challenge, at least by past performances, is Azmeraw Mengistu with a best of 27:51. But never discount an African debutant, so the 18-year-old Demoz Cherkos is worth noting.
The women’s field, headed by the Kenyan duo of Helah Kiprop (31:19) of Kenya and Esther Chemtai Ndiema (31:27), has the capacity to make serious inroads on the inaugural women’s course record of 32:00 from a year ago, set by Josephine Chepkoech of Kenya. The Birell Prague Grand Prix is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, the highest category in international road racing.
Helah Kiprop is the fastest entry in the women’s race and her pedigree is impressive. Beneath the bare statistic of her 10k best of 31:19 is the story of four personal bests, all set in one race. The Kenyan finished sixth in the Ras al- Khaimah Half Marathon in February last year, one of best quality races ever at the distance. En route to a personal best of 67:39, she set also set best times for 10, 15 and 20k.
Kiprop should have keen competition from a familiar face to Prague running fans, her fellow Kenyan Esther Chemtai Ndiema. She has a best 31:27 and also finished fourth in 69:49 in this year’s Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon. Also challenging should be the 20-year-old Kenyan, Correti Jepkoech, having run 31:31. Ethiopia’s Genet Ayalew is highly experienced and has a best of 31:47. She’s had a good year so far, finishing 10th in the World Half Marathon Championships this year.
Strong support is guaranteed for one of the Czech Republic’s outstanding all-round athletes, Anezka Drahotova, who is one of the so-called Czech Marathon Hopes – a RunCzech project that supports young promising runners. Barely 19-years-old, she reverts to running and her rapidly improving 10k performances after winning a bronze medal in the 20k Walk at the European Championships in Zurich. That followed setting a world junior record on the track at 10,000m to win the World Junior title in Eugene, Oregon, in July. Also a talented cyclist, Drahotova’s performances in running, where she set a 10k personal best of 33:59 in the Birell Prague Grand Prix last year, suggest she might face a pleasant dilemma over her choice of premier discipline in the not too distant future.