Paul Lonyangata seeks history in Paris

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History beckons for Kenya’s Paul Lonyangata as he targets a hat-trick of victories when this year’s Paris Marathon goes down Sunday morning in the French capital city.

The 26-year-old Lonyangata claimed his personal best of 2 hours, 06 minutes and 10 seconds when he won his maiden Paris Marathon in 2017 before becoming the second man to defend it last year in 2:06:25, the second-fastest time of his career.

The only other man to have defended his title on the course is Briton Steve Brace, who won in 1989 before staging a successful defence the year after.
The Briton and Lonyangata are the only athletes who have won in Paris twice and the Kenyan wants to surpass that on Sunday.

In the women’s race, Kenyan athletes have won the past three women’s races and 2014 World Half Marathon bronze medallist Sally Chepyego leads the charge this year in pursuit of upholding the status.

Interestingly, Lonyangata has not competed since then as he picked up a slight injury last week when he slipped and fell in training. However, he insisted that it shouldn’t affect his ability to compete.

“My training back at home went on well and I’m looking forward to a good run. I want to be on the podium by retaining my title. My prayer is to repeat what I did last year,” Lonyangata told Nation Sport.

The athlete, who hails from West Pokot County, also said that this year’s race looks competitive with many Kenyan athletes participating.

“I’m in good form but the field this year has many Kenyan athletes who will be participating. They are also good and I will do my best to retain my title,” said Lonyangata.

He comes up against fellow Kenyans in former Commonwealth 5,000m champion Augustine Choge, Hillary Kipsambu, Ishmael Bushendich and Barselius Kipyego. Lonyangata and company also face a horde of Ethiopian men with sub-2:05 personal bests in the likes of Asefa Mengistu and Yemane Tsegay.

Choge, one of the most versatile distance runners in the world over the past decade, has won global medals indoors, outdoors and at cross country.

The 32-year-old has moved to the roads in recent years and clocked 59:26 for the half marathon in 2017. Choge might have made his marathon debut in Chicago last year where he failed to finish the race, but hopes for a different story in Paris.

Mengistu with 2:04:06 is the fastest man in the field, having clocked the time from a third-place finish t Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon in January.

Tsegay’s PB of 2:04:48 dates back to 2012 when he won the Rotterdam Marathon, but the 34-year-old is still highly competitive and won in Ottawa last year. More recently, he finished runner-up in Fukuoka in December where he clocked 2:08:54.

Almost all of the leading contenders in the women’s race set their PBs in 2018, so will be heading to the French capital in good form.

Kenyan athletes have won the past three women’s races at the Paris Marathon and 2014 World Half Marathon bronze medallist Sally Chepyego leads the pack this year. The experienced 33-year-old set her marathon PB of 2:23:15 when finishing second in Ljubljana last year.

Compatriots Pascalia Jepkorir, the 2012 World Half Marathon bronze medallist, and Betty Lempus are also expected to feature in the leading pack that has Ethiopia’s Gelete Burka, who is the most decorated athlete in the field.

Winner of the 2006 world cross-country short course title and 2008 world indoor 1500m title, the 33-year-old Ethiopian finally conquered the marathon distance in 2018, clocking a PB of 2:20:45 in Dubai and then going on to win in Ottawa in 2:22:17, the first marathon victory of her career. Other Ethiopians in the race are Azmera Abreha and Azmera Gebru.

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