After living in the shadows of the six World Marathon Majors (WMM) races in New York, Chicago, Boston, Berlin, London and Tokyo, the Valencia Marathon is charting a course of its own.
Fiercely knocking on the WMM door, the Valencia Marathon is fast gaining the reputation of being one of the world’s fastest big city marathons and has been fighting for elevation to the “Champions League” of marathon running.
The embarrassment of talent assembled for this weekend’s race in the Spanish city speaks to these efforts.
Kenya’s campaign will be led by former world half marathon record holder Kibiwott Kandie with the cast including Alexander Mutiso, the third fastest in the field, Titus Kipruto, Charles Matata, Stephen Kiprop and Celestine Chepchirchir.
The Netherlands-based NN Running Team has also entered a star-studded cast that features decorated athletes led by Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei, Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana, Leul Gebresilase, Genzebe Dibaba, Derseh Kindie and Mohamed Huseyidin. Three times Olympic champion and five times world champion, Kenenisa Bekele also joins the entry list and will run alongside Tanzanian Gabriel Geay.
Kandie was in high spirits on the Turkish Airlines flight that connected through Istanbul to Valencia, the Spanish city being one of his favourite hunting grounds on the road.
Just a month ago, Kandie ran the fourth-fastest time in history (57 minutes and 40 seconds) to complete a hat-trick of victories in the Valencia Half Marathon, defeating the top Ethiopian pair of Yomif Kejelcha and Hagos Gebrhiwet in a sprint finish.
However, it will only be Kandie’s second ever marathon following an eighth-place finish in New York in 2021 (2:13:43) on his 42-kilometre debut.
“I was at the Valencia Half Marathon where I managed to win and when I went back home, I increased my mileage in training so that I can be able to run the full marathon well because I know the course and it’s a good one,” he told Nation Sport exclusively aboard Turkish Airlines.
Turkish Airlines have partnered with the Nation Media Group to bring you stories as they break in Valencia, where the marathon course has been voted the third fastest globally.
“The weather looks good and there will be no sun on that day and I prefer running in such conditions,” Kandie added.
Kandie broke the half marathon world record in 2020 when he clocked 57:32 in — you guessed it! — Valencia before Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo lowered it by one second, timing 57:31, also in Valencia.
Chepchirchir, who has a personal best of 2:20:10 and trains in Kapsabet, Nandi County will be teaming up with her compatriot Jackline Chelal (2:20:29) in a strong, Ethiopia-dominated women’s field.
Ethiopia’s Ayana is the fastest in the field with 2:17:20 and her compatriot Worknesh Degefa (2:17:41) the second fastest.
Chepchirchir, who is also the Mexico Marathon champion, believes her training has been flawless and her target is to run a personal best time.
“The field is fast and we have tough Ethiopians who have better times… it shall be a hard one, but given that we are competing on a fast course, if all goes well, I will clock my personal best,” said Chepchirchir who is in the Gianni Demadonna camp.
She started the season with Boston Marathon in April where she clocked 2:25:07 for 16th place, a race she said “was hard but with good lessons learnt.”
“It was my first time competing in such a big race but I love challenging myself and despite the tough punishing course, I managed to finish the race. I believe I can do better next time I’m invited to run. But first things first, I have to impress at the Valencia Marathon,” said Chepchirchir who won the Mexico Marathon in 2:27:18 after which she took a short break.
Meanwhile, Turkish Airlines offers a complimentary hotel stay and easy visa offer in Istanbul for passengers who are staying for one day in Turkey.
Nation Sport on the ground
Turkish Airlines have flown Nation Media Group (NMG) sports reporter Bernard Rotich (right) and television cameraman Samuel Doe Okoth (left) to Spain to report on Sunday’s Valencia Marathon.
The partnership between Nation Sport and Turkish Airlines has this year also seen the airline fly NMG teams to the Uefa Champions League final in Istanbul and the Berlin Marathon. Okoth and Rotich will provide multimedia content from Valencia across NMG’s online, print and broadcast platforms.
The Valencia Marathon is fast becoming among the most sought-after big city marathon races.
“In a pre-Olympic year, the Valencia Marathon represents the strongest event in the world. Dozens of athletes are looking to book their ticket to Paris 2024, with more than a dozen seeking national records and both the men’s and women’s front-runners going for course records. Valencia is, once again, the ciudad del running,” Valencia Marathon’s international elite director, Marc Roig, says.