Nairobi, Sep 15 (IANS) Defending champion Barselius Kipyego and Violah Jepchumba of Kenya will start as favourites at the Mattoni Labem Half Marathon in the north-central Czech city on Saturday.
Kipyego, who set the race record with his 59:15 minutes personal best last year, is one of four men in the field who have dipped under the one-hour mark for the distance, reports Xinhua news agency.
The others are Kenyan Kenneth Keter, who clocked 59:48 last year; Lahbabi Aziz of Morocco who ran 59:25 in 2014 and another Kenyan, Solomon Kirwa Yego, who clocked 58:44 last year on the fast Ostia course.
Yego has the best time of the entrants this season at 59:50 from February’s Ras Al Khaimah race where he finished fourth.
The 30-year-old impressed at the Paris Marathon two months later where he clocked a 2:07:12 hours lifetime best to finish fourth.
Kipyego, 24, clocked 1:00:47 in his only half marathon this year, finishing fourth in Prague in April.
Keter ran 1:01:05 in Ras Al Khaimah in February, where he finished eighth and Lahbabi 1:02:17 in Istanbul in April.
Ismail Juma of Tanzania and Kenyans Josphat Kiprop Kiptis and Josphat Kimutai Tanui, with 1:00:09, 1:00:21 and 1:00:38 bests respectively, should be in the hunt as well.
Jepchumba, 26, leads the women’s field. The Kenyan is one of history’s fastest women over 10km and the half marathon, with 30:05 and 1:05:22 lifetime bests to rank second and fifth over the distances all-time.
Others in the hunt include Lucy Cheruiyot, the runner-up last year at 1:08:17 and Yvonne Jelagat, whose current personal best stands at 1:08:19.
Kenyans Stacy Jepkemboi Ndiwa and Lydia Rotich, who have clocked 1:10:08 and 1:10:57, could play a role as well.