Get ready for battle royale as road running season begins

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge crosses the line to win last year's Berlin Marathon title. [File]

After a hair-raising track and field season that ran from May to September, battle royale in road running begins.

On Sunday, world record holder and two-time Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge will compete at the 49th Berlin Marathon, seeking a record fifth victory –and, at best, another world record.

The Chicago Marathon two weeks later will be highlighted by a clash between defending champion Ruth Chepngetich and London Marathon winner Sifan Hassan as Kelvin Kiptum, the second fastest marathoner in history, readies to prove his mettle in the American 42km race.

Two-time Tokyo Marathon champion Birhanu Legese, the fourth-fastest marathon runner of all time, headlines the men’s field for the Amsterdam Marathon. Defending champion Evans Chebet will take on two-time winner Geoffrey Kamworor at the New York City Marathon in November.

For the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic, the Shanghai Marathon in late November will welcome an international elite field.

Just one week later, multiple global champion and Uganda’s world record-holder Joshua Cheptegei will make his long-awaited marathon debut in Valencia. In recent years the event has established itself as one of the highest-quality marathons in the world, and this year’s edition will surely be no exception.

Towards the end of the year, the Thai coastal area of Bang Saen will host one of the newest additions to the Platinum Label calendar, the Bangsaen21 Half Marathon. Since the pandemic, it has been largely a domestic affair, but it will be back with a bang this year with a high-quality elite line-up.

Hundreds of road races each year are granted a World Athletics Label, ranging from ‘Platinum’, for the top tier of road events, to Gold, Elite and Label. There are still more than 100 World Athletics Label road races due to take place between now and end of year.

But Kenyan charges will be the stars to watch at the inaugural World Athletics Road Running Championships in Riga, Latvia, on Sunday next week.

Athletes will contest in the mile, 5km and half marathon. Three-time world 1500m champion Faith Kipyegon, world record-holder Berihu Aregawi and Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir are among the stars set to compete in the Latvian capital.

World under 1500m champion Reynold Kipkorir Cheruiyot and Kyumbe Munguti will lead the Kenyan men's onslaught against a star-studded field that has USA’s Sam Prakel and Ethiopia’s Teddese Lemi.

Beatrice Chebet, who is fresh from bagging bronze in 5000m at the World Championships in Budapest and winning the world cross country title in Bathurst in February, longs to win a world title in a field that also features 5km mixed race world record-holder Ejgayehu Taye, Olympic 3000m steeplechase champion Peruth Chemutai and Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka, who is entered to double with the mile.

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