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By David Monti
(c) 2009 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
March 20, 2009

ROMA (20-Mar) -- Paul Kirui of Kenya and Anna Incerti of Italy are the top-seeded athletes at Sunday's 15th Maratona di Roma here.

Kirui, a 29 year-old Kalenjin, was the 2004 IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships gold medalist and has a career best marathon time of 2:06:44.  He's the only man in the field with a sub-2:07 performance to his credit.  In 2008, Kirui finished fifth at Rotterdam (2:09:46), and first at Amsterdam (2:07:52).

"He is the strongest athlete," commented Max Monteforte, the event's top athletes coordinator who assigned Kirui the #1 bib.

But Monteforte also thinks that another Kalenjin, Francis Kiprop, could win the race.  Kiprop, who has a personal best time of 2:08:30, is coached by the legendary Patrick Sang, an Olympic and world championships steeplechase silver medalist.  Moreover, Monteforte trusts Kiprop's agent, Michel Boeting, who said that Kiprop is fit and ready to race.  Monteforte also thinks that Philip Manyin (2:07:41 personal best) and Hosea Rotich (2:07:24) will be still be battling for victory here last in the race.

Incerti will wear the #1 bib on the women's side.  The 29 year-old athlete, who lives and trains in Palermo, is in excellent form after winning the Roma-Ostia Half-Marathon on March 1, in a personal best 1:09:24.  That performance was perticularly noteworthy because in that race the elite women were given a head start over the men, and Incerti ran the entire race alone from gun to tape in rainy weather.  She beat second place Christelle Daunay of France by more than a minute.  Incerti was the Milan Marathon champion last year, clocking a personal best 2:27:42, and also finished 14th in the Beijing Olympic Games last August.

Monteforte said that Kenyan Linah Cheruiyot should give Incerti her biggest challenge.  Cheruiyot, 36, a former protogé of Tegla Loroupe, has already won two marathons in Italy; she was the champion in Venice in both 2006 and 2007.  She has a personal best time of 2:26:00.

Some 15,000 runners are expected on the starting line in the shadow of the famous Roman Coliseum on the Via del Fori Imperiali on Sunday morning.  Runners are hoping that gusting winds die down and that the temperature comes up a bit; it's been unseasonably cold here the last two days.



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