Luke Kibet and Lyubov Morgonova hedline Singapore field.
Luke Kibet rescued a relatively dismal 2008, by winning the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in a course record 2.13.01 a year ago. This year hasn’t been much better for him so far, and he recognises that it’s going to be a lot harder to repeat his rescue act against an improved field in Sunday’s race around the city-state. But the 2007 world champion has one major advantage over his rivals – he runs well in heat and humidity.
After victory in the Lagos half-marathon at the beginning of the year, Kibet failed to finish the London Marathon in April, suffering from a left achilles’ tendon injury, which endured for several weeks, and took him at one stage to the celebrated Dr Hans Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt in Munich, for treatment. “I was in Germany, at my manager’s for almost four months this year,” he said on arrival in Singapore on Friday. “And I went to Munich a couple of times, for just a day. I think it’s OK now.
“It’s a much tougher field here this year. There are four really good men here this time”. Almost inevitably, they are Kenyan compatriots. He named John Kelai, winner in 2003, Vincent Kipsos, Evans Ruto and Leonard Mucheru, all of whom like him have run well under 2.10.
But there is the little matter of the ever-constant heat and humidity in Singapore, which has kept the course record somewhat higher than those personal bests. Kibet’s victory at the world champs in Osaka two years ago came in 33C heat and high humidity, and he has twice won in Taipei, which enjoys, if that’s the right word, similar conditions. Singapore will be cooler, but not by much.
“It depends a lot on the weather,” says Kibet, “but we didn’t have very good pacing last year, and I won by over two minutes. This year we have Vincent (Krop) pacing, and with the others, if we stay together, I think we can run under 2.13, maybe even 2.11, 2.12”.
That would certainly be a bonus for organisers who, inside the seven years since this race was revived, with Standard Chartered as sponsors, have turned the event into the biggest and best in south-east Asia. There will be 50,000 runners in the three events, including 10k and ‘half,’ with over 15000 in the marathon. And a first prize of $35,000, for both men and women has ensured a vastly improved elite entry.
Fastest woman in the field with 2.25.12, Muscovite Lyubov Morgonova has run over 40 marathons. “But none,” she said, “in conditions like this. The closest was in Hawaii, but even that was not as humid as Singapore”. Her two colleagues, Yuliya Gromova, from St Petersburg, and Mayorova Ivanova, from Cheboksary concurred, and agreed that conditions might put five minutes on their best times. But even that might be optimistic, given that returning 2007 winner Alem Ashebier of Ethiopia clocked 2.37.09.