April 10, 2015
After a long winter (in some parts of the country), it’s that time of year again. The temperatures are rising, flowers are starting to bloom and in major cities across the world, extremely fit men and women are testing the limits of their bodies over 26.2 miles. It’s spring marathon season.
There’s no official start date for spring marathon season — some might argue it began on March 15 in Seoul, others last week in Daegu — but there’s no doubt that the season ends in April, the best month in marathoning. The Paris and Rotterdam Marathons are both scheduled for Sunday, and from there the countdown begins to the two crown jewels of spring marathons: Boston on April 20 and London on April 26. We’ll have in-depth previews of those marathons in the coming weeks, but our attention this weekend will be on Paris and Rotterdam.
Yesterday, we broke down the men’s races at the two marathons. Today, it’s time to look at the women.
In our men’s preview, we noted that Paris has some fantastic depth (13 sub-2:08 guys) while Rotterdam’s field is almost World Marathon Major-worthy as it has four sub-2:05 guys and four more under 2:07. Those fields aren’t as good as the men’s fields in Boston or London, but they’re close — especially compared to Boston. We wish we could say the same about the women’s races, but the truth is that the best action this weekend will be on the men’s side, particularly in Rotterdam. Take a look at how this weekend’s races stack up against the WMM races later this month:
|# of women sub-2:20||0||0||2||4|
|# of women sub-2:22||0||0||6||9|
|# of women sub-2:24||0||3||10||11|
In a related note, only two of the women in the Rotterdam elite field are from Africa. Rotterdam is a fast course — Tiki Gelana ran 2:18 there in 2012 — but over the past two years the emphasis has clearly shifted to the men’s elite race as the winning women’s time last year was only 2:27:50 versus 2:05:00 on the men’s side. Marathons only have so much money to dole out in appearance fees and if you’re going to spring for someone like Eliud Kipchoge (who won Rotterdam last year), you have to make up for it somewhere else.
Paris, however, does have some accomplished women in the field so we’ll lead our preview with that race.
Paris: Two-Time Chicago Champ Atsede Bayisa Leads Watered-Down Field
The favorite in the women’s race would have been Ethiopia’s Mulu Seboka, whom we ranked as the #3 marathoner in the world last year, but she withdrew from the race earlier this week.
That makes the fastest woman in the field countrywoman Atsede Bayisa, who won this race in 2009 and 2010 and has two major victories on her resume with wins in Chicago in 2010 and 2012. Last year was rough for Bayisa as her fastest time across three marathons was just 2:31:44 in Shanghai in November. Her 2:27:24 in Dubai in January was a step in the right direction, but that time came on an extremely fast course where it’s not uncommon to see runners lop large chunks of time off their PBs.
Ethiopia’s Amane Gobena (Los Angeles and Istanbul) and Meseret Mengistu (Cape Town and Soweto) and Kenya’s Visiline Jepkesho (Lisbon and Milan) all won multiple marathons last year. However, none of them ran particularly fast (Gobena’s fastest time was 2:27:05; it was 2:30:56 for Mengistu and 2:26:47 for Jepkesho), though Gobena possesses a solid 2:23:50 pb from 2013 (albeit run in Dubai). Of the three, Gobena seems to have the best shot at challenging for the win.
Over the past five years, the average women’s winning time in Paris has been 2:22:04 with a slowest winning time of 2:22:44. Given the top entrants’ PRs and Bayisa’s rough 2014, the winning time should be a lot slower on Sunday, likely 2:23 or slower (though the marathon gods tend to laugh at the word “should”). Bayisa (2:22:03 pb) is still not that far removed from her best (she was fourth in London two years ago); if she can get back to that level, she will win the race. If not, it’s anyone’s guess.
Full women’s elite field
|Atsede Bayisa||Ethiopia||2:22:03||’09/’10 champ; ’10/’12 Chicago champ|
|Bruktayit Eshetu||Ethiopia||2:23:51||Set PR to take 3rd at Houston in January|
|Martha Komu||France||2:25:33||’08 Champ|
|Meseret Legesse||Ethiopia||2:26:15||Won debut marathon in ’08 but since then has seven 2nds and 0 wins|
|Visiline Jepkesho||Kenya||2:26:47||Won Lisbon & Milan last year|
|Meseret Mengistu||Ethiopia||2:29:22||Won Cape Town Marathon in Sept. & Soweto Marathon in Nov.|
|Sophie Duarte||France||debut||2013 Euro XC champ; 9:25 steeple pb; 74:25 half|
|Severine Hamel||France||debut||75:01 half|
LRC Prediction: Bayisa wins against this watered-down field.
Rotterdam: Only Three Women in This Race Have Broken 2:30
Where: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
When: Sunday, April 12, 4:30 a.m. ET
How to watch: Live online stream here
Weather: High of 56, low of 43, 15 mph winds. Cloudy with 20% chance of rain.
Of the four races this weekend, the women’s race in Rotterdam is the least interesting. The women’s elite field is half as big as its men’s counterpart and there’s no top-level talent as the Netherlands’ 42-year-old Miranda Boonstra has the fastest pb at 2:27:32. By comparison, Paris has nine women who have broken 2:27. In years past, Rotterdam has attracted some big names — Jemima Sumgong won in 2013 and Tiki Gelana ran 2:18:58 (#7 time ever) here in 2012 four months before becoming the Olympic champion. But last year’s winning time of 2:27:50 was the slowest in eight years and we could be looking at an even slower time in 2015 unless someone really steps it up.
Full women’s elite field
|Miranda Boonstra||The Netherlands||2:27:32|
|Kriztina Papp||Hungary||debut||69:50 half|
LRC Prediction: We’ll go with Japan’s Asami Kato, who set her 2:28:51 pb by winning the Gold Coast Marathon last year. She has won her only race so far in 2015 (70:36 at a half marathon in Japan on March 15) and she’s in better form than either of the women who have faster pbs. She has a good shot to PR but it’s possible we see a winning time slower than 2:28:00 for the first time since 2006.