Exciting spectacle set to unfold on Corniche
A keen battle in the Midnight Marathon and a sparkling opening ceremony could set the tone for the IAAF World Championships.
The first Midnight Marathon at an Athletics World Championships will certainly be an exciting affair not just in terms of novelty but with regard to the competition as well.
The fact that it is a night affair and it is being held with the Corniche skyline as the backdrop have drawn a lot of attention, the field itself – a tough one with no clear favourite – has also grabbed eyeballs.
London 2017 winner Bahrain’s Rose Chelimo is back to defend her title but whether she can effect a repeat is the question. She does not figure in the top 10 this season with the list dominated by the Kenyan and Ethiopian runners.
Right on top is Ruth Chepngetich with a season’s best of 2:17.08 set in Dubai in January. Ruth’s time is also the third best on the all-time list behind Paula Radcliffe’s 2003 time of 2:15:25 and her countrymate Mary Keitany’s 2:17:01.
Israel’s Lonah Chemtai Salpeter lurks just below with the season’s fourth best time of 2:19.46 and impressive wins in the long distance races and half marathons through the year.
Tokyo Marathon winner in March, Ethiopia’s Ruti Aga, with a best of 2:20:40, could also be among the front-runners while twice champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya will be looking for her third title, having forced to settle for silver in London 2017.
While championship pedigree will be a factor, how they deal with the heat and humidity will also determine the way the medals are decided. Athletes have been training on Corniche and some of them felt concerns about the conditions were misplaced.
“The heat and humidity is different as we are not used to it but we can adapt,” said Belgian Manuella Soccol, who had finished eighthin the Vienna City Marathon in April.
Her team-mate Hanna Vandenbuscche, who has been a dominant force at the Belgian national championships, said: “We are mentally prepared although physically we may be lagging behind a bit. But that’s not a problem. After all it’s just one day. I think if we have enough rest the afternoon before the event, we should be okay”.
The Belgians did sound a note of caution.
“It’s the World Championship and everyone wants to win. But running a fast race just to finish on the podium could be risky,” said Manuella. “Many runners could drop out because of that, given the conditions. But there are other runners who know their body well and take that risk. It works for them. I’ll not do that. I just want to finish the marathon,” said Manuella.
A keen contest in the marathon preceded by a glittering opening ceremony should certainly set the tone for the rest of the competitions in the coming days.