Wesley Korir will be hoping to resume his racing career with a flourish at the 16th edition of the BLOM Bank Beirut Marathon on Sunday (11), a day that will see almost 50,000 runners take to the streets across the various races.
The 35-year-old Kenyan, a winner of the Boston Marathon in 2012, has not raced in 19 months but is optimistic of a strong showing in this weekend’s race in the Lebanese capital.
“Everything is going well,” said Korir at yesterday’s press conference. “I’m out of the habit of winning a while so getting a win will give me a boost as I get back to running full-time. My training has gone well. The weather looks good, the competition is good and so definitely my goal is to run under 2:10.”
A member of Kenyan Parliament from 2013 until 2017, Korir took time out from his political career this year ahead of the birth of his fourth child, re-committing himself to a return to top-level racing. To succeed in Beirut on Sunday he will have to be near his best, with Ethiopia’s Bazu Worku, who has a best of 2:05:25 and was a winner at the Houston Marathon this year, also in the field.
Kenyans Ezekial Omullo and Andrew Ben Kimutai, who have both run below 2:09, are also sure to feature. There will also be a duo of exciting prospects in Uganda’s Felix Chemonges and Morocco’s Mohamed Ahmami, who bring impressive pedigree at the shorter distances.
An interesting debutant at the distance is Kenya’s Kalipus Lomwai, who was a pacemaker at the race last year but carries a classy half marathon best of 61:22. Others of note include Bahrain’s Benson Seurei and Ethiopians Gemechu Edeo, Hiribo Shano and Yihunilign Adane Amsalu, who has a best of 2:09:48 and was a runner-up in last year’s race in Beirut.
The women’s race is set to be a wide-open contest with an international field spanning seven different nationalities. Though Kenya and Ethiopia are well represented it will come as no surprise if the title goes to one of their East African rivals, with Eritrea’s Nazret Weldu set to make her debut at the distance.
Earlier this year she finished 26th in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia in 71:45 and if she carries that form to the full marathon she will be a force to be reckoned with.
Kenyans Ednah Mukwana and Rebecca Korir are also sure to feature. Mukwana has a best of 2:30:24 which she ran to take victory at the Zhengzhou Marathon earlier this year, while Korir has a best of 2:29:16, which she ran to finish third at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2016.
Another who will be in contention is Lithuania’s Raza Drazdauskaite, a three-time Olympian who clocked 2:29:29 to finish 26th at the London Games in 2012, as well as Belarus’s Sviatlana Kudzelich, a European indoor silver medallist over 3000m in 2015.
Ethiopia will have a trio of strong contenders in the form of Almensh Herpha, Medina Deme Armino and Nigist Muluneh Desta. Herpha took victory at the Lagos City Marathon on her most recent outing over this distance, while the Ethiopian has previous form at the BLOM Bank Beirut Marathon, finishing third in 2016.
Armino has been enjoying a breakthrough year after lowering her PB to 2:33:17 when taking victory at the Treviso Marathon, while Desta lowered her best to 2:36:54 when finishing third at the Shenzhen Marathon last December.
This year’s event will also incorporate the 50th World Military Marathon Championship, which will feature 98 runners from almost 20 countries. The BLOM Bank Beirut Marathon will also be the first leg of the Asia Premier Marathons, which is now in its second season.
All races will start at the picturesque Beirut Waterfront on General Wissam El Hassan Avenue and cross two parallel finish lines at the historic Martyrs’ Square in downtown Beirut.