Former Marathon Champions To Clash In Castelbuono

Thousands of spectators crammed into the Piazza Margherita in Castelbuono last July to see the awards ceremony after the 85th Giro Podistico di Castelbuono. Photo: David Monti

The Boston, New York, and London champions will face each other in Sicily.

Written by: David Monti

(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

Thousands of spectators crammed into the Piazza Margherita in Castelbuono last July to see the awards ceremony after the 85th Giro Podistico di Castelbuono. Photo: David Monti

The organizers of the 86th Giro Podistico di Castelbuono announced today that they had recruited the male champions of the Boston, London and New York City Marathons to compete head-to-head in their race on Tuesday, July 26.  In a coup for race director Mario Fesi, his event in a small Sicilian city will be the first ever where Kenyans Geoffrey Mutai (Boston winner), Emmanuel Mutai (London), and Ethiopian Gebre Gebremariam (New York) compete in the same race.

By any measure, Mutai, Mutai and Gebremariam are amongst the best distance runners in the world.  According to the independent Association of Road Racing Statisticians, Geoffrey Mutai is presently the #5-ranked distance runner in the world, and #1 amongst athletes who are primarily marathoners. Gebremariam is ranked #2 amongst marathoners and Emmanuel Mutai is #8.  Moreover, based on 2011 marathon times, Geoffrey Mutai holds the #1 rank (2:03:02), Emmanuel Mutai #3 (2:04:40) and Gebremariam #4 (2:04:53).  For each man, those times represent their career bests, and Geoffrey Mutai’s mark is the fastest ever achieved on a certified marathon course (but not a world record because the Boston course is point-to-point and downhill).

Known as “La Corsa Piu’ Antica” (the Ancient Race) because it was first held in 1912, the traditional distance for the Giro Podistico di Castelbuono has been 11.3 kilometers.  The athletes would run ten laps of an 1130-meter loop over the ancient streets tiled with volcanic stone, starting and finishing in the Piazza Margherita.  This year, however, the race will be a certified 10K held on the same course, and the athletes will run just under nine laps, instead.

All three marathon champions are also accomplished 10K runners.  At the B.A.A. 10K less than two-weeks ago, Geoffrey Mutai ran a personal best 27:19, the fastest-ever 10K in the United States on a certified, loop course.  He also ran 27:27.59 for 10,000m at high altitude in Nairobi in 2010.  Gebremariam has a 10,000m time of 26:52.33 (Hengelo, 2007), and has run 27:41 on the road (Beach to Beacon, 2010).  Emmanuel Mutai has run 27:51 on the road (Marseille, 2006).

Organizers also said that USA half-marathon record holder Ryan Hall would be competing in Castelbuono for the first time.  Hall was supposed to run the race last year, but was forced to withdraw to attend to an undisclosed family problem.  Hall has a marathon personal best of 2:04:58 (Boston, 2011), and has run 28:22 for 10K on the road (Northport, 2006).

The Giro Podistico di Castelbuono has been the traditional summer race for top marathon runners, most of whom do not compete on the European track circuit.  The event’s past winners include Kenyans Paul Tergat (1994 and 2003), Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot (2006), and Martin Lel (2004); Italian Gelindo Bordin (1987, 1988); Moroccan (now American) Khalid Khannouchi (1998), and South African Hendrick Ramaala (1999).  Last year’s champion was world half marathon and 20K record holder Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea.

For Castelbuono, located in central Sicily in the middle of an 8000 acre national park called Parco delle Madonie, the race is an important fixture on the annual social calendar.  Nearly all of the residents of the city turn out to watch the early evening race (see photo above).

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