Behind these two superstars, race director Mari Fesi has recruited four other Africans who could also win the race. The first is defending champion Vincent Kipruto of Kenya, who won last year’s contest by just one second in 34:02 over Qatari Mubarak Hassan Shami, the 2007 IAAF World Championships Marathon silver medalist. Kipruto, 22, was the 2009 Paris Marathon champion and has a marathon personal best of 2:05:13.
Also in the race is four-time Boston Marathon champion Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, who also won in Castelbuono in 2006 and was third in 2004. Cheruiyot, 31, will be joined by his training partner James Kwambai, 27, who has been at the same high altitude training camp since early July in northern Italy organized by his Italian coaches, Gabriele Rosa and Claudio Beardelli. Kwambai, who has never raced in Castelbuono, has a sizzling marathon personal best of 2:04:27 set in Rotterdam in 2009. At that race this year, he faltered badly, was forced to walk, and jogged in to finish 20th in 2:24:07
Abreham Feleke Cherkos, 20, of Ethiopia, the 2008 world junior 5000-meter champion, is also entered and should contend for the podium.
American half marathon record holder Ryan Hall had committed to the race, but was forced to withdraw for personal reasons, according to his manager, Ray Flynn.
With competition at the European Championships in Athletics beginning next Tuesday, recruiting top Italian talent was nearly impossible for Fesi. Nonetheless, four Italian men earned invitations to the race, led by the 2007 European Indoor Championships 3000-meter gold medallist, Cosimo Caliandro. The versatile Caliandro, 28, has a 5000-meter personal best of 13:50.97 and has covered 10,000 meters in 28:40.94. Also on “Squadra Italia” will be Gabriele De Nard, Gian Marco Buttazzo, and Giovanni Ruggiero.
The unrelenting sun here will no doubt play a role in next Monday’s race. Temperatures will be around 30°C (86°F) when the race begins at 7:00 PM.