The lure of the original marathon course leading from Marathon to the Panathenaikon Stadium in Athens weaves its spell not only on mass runners but the elite as well. Despite the tough course which makes setting personal bests a tough proposition indeed, the organisers of the “Athens Marathon. The Authentic” confirmed that both defending champions will return to the race on 9th November, the Kenyans Hillary Yego and Nancy Joan Rotich. Another runner who clearly loves racing on the authentic course is Raymond Bett. The Kenyan will be running the event for the fourth time, having won twice and set the current event record of 2:11:35.
The organisers of the Athens Marathon re-named the event earlier this year and it is now known as “Athens Marathon. The Authentic.” This change aims to emphasise its unique historical background and a record number of some 13,000 runners will take part on 9th November. Taking into account shorter races staged in Athens the same day and the total number of entries is around 35,000. Registration for the races is closed at present. However there may be a late availability due to last moment cancellations. Runners are asked to check the event’s website at: www.athensauthenticmarathon.gr
Hillary Yego caused a surprise last year, when the unknown marathon runner won in 2:13:51. Since then the 27 year-old has improved his personal best to 2:11:54 when he was sixth in the Marrakech Marathon in January. He has certainly had a busy 2014 since Athens will be his fourth marathon of the year.
One who will strongly challenge the defending champion is Raymond Bett. The Kenyan won the Athens Marathon in 2010 and 2012, clocking event records on both occasions. Four years ago Bett ran 2:12:40, then improved the time to 2:11:35 in 2012. The Kenyan returned last year and intended to the attack the course record of 2:10:55 which was set by the Italian Stefano Baldini in winning the Olympic title in 2004. However Bett suffered stomach problems and dropped out after 25 k. The 30 year-old will be eager to make up for the disappointment. Bett will be ready to chase another triumph and establish a unique series by taking the race in every even year since 2010!
"Athens is the origin of marathon running and the Olympic Games started here. This is why I like Athens and come back to the race again and again. It is a legendary marathon," said Raymond Bett. There are two more Kenyans returning to the Greek capital who have good memories of the Athens Marathon: Dickson Cheruiyot was last year’s runner-up and David Rutoh placed third in 2013.
As far as international success is concerned, another name on the start list catches the eye: John Kelai is Kenya’s Commonwealth Games marathon champion from 2010 and finished fifth in this year’s Games in Glasgow. His best is 2:09:09 and if he can reproduce that kind of form, he should be a definite contender.
Last year’s women’s champion also has a strong sense of history for the marathon. Soon after crossing the finish line, Nancy Joan Rotich was in reflective mood 12 months ago: “It was a great feeling to finish inside the old Olympic Stadium. The Athens Marathon is special, so I am very proud to have won this historic race”, said Rotich after winning the women’s title in 2:41:32. The 26 year-old Kenyan hopes to repeat that experience on her return to Athens. Among her rivals there will be Russia’s Kamila Shamsutdinova, who has a personal best of 2:35:31, and Yumiko Kinoshita. The Japanese was fifth in this year’s Nagano Marathon with a personal best of 2:39:38.
Information and online entry is available at: AthensAuthenticMarathon.gr.
Hillary Yego winning last year’s Athens Marathon in the Panathenaikon Stadium. Credit: Nick Gomolis / Athens Marathon. The Authentic.