An eagerly anticipated face-off between world champions Peres Jepchirchir and Agnes Tirop is expected to steal the spotlight at the 9th TCS World 10K in Bengaluru, India on Sunday May 15.
Meanwhile, Agnes Tirop, her Kenyan compatriot who claimed a surprise victory at last year’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships, has selected Bengaluru to make her road racing debut.
Both said an assault on the 31:46 TCS World 10K course record set by Lucy Kabuu in 2014 could unfold on Sunday.
"We have a strong field of runners who can run 10k faster than me,” said Jepchirchir, who clocked 30:55 over the distance last year. “So I know they can run fast to push us to a good time.”
Jepchirchir recently underscored her form with a strong victory at the Yangzhou International Half Marathon on April 24, clocking 1:07:21 to win by 26 seconds.
For her part Tirop, despite her inexperience on the roads, promised to be competitive following a simple strategy. “I will try (to run fast),” the 20‐year‐old said. “I will run right behind my colleagues.”
Those colleagues make up what is probably the strongest women’s field ever assembled in Bengaluru. One who Jepchirchir singled out is Gladys Chesire, the fastest 10K runner in the world in 2015 with 30:41 to rank her the ninth fastest of all‐time.
No stranger to the TCS World 10K, Chesire finished third in the race last year.
Another star on the roster is Helah Kiprop, the silver medallist in the marathon at last year’s World Championships, who was recently named to Kenya’s marathon roster for this summer’s Olympic Games. Kiprop was the TCS World 10K champion in 2012.
Others to watch include Kenyan Linet Masai, the 2009 10,0000m world champion on the track; Wude Ayalew of Ethiopia, a former course record holder and runner-up here last year; Kenyan Jackline Chepngeno, a former standout at the youth and junior levels who'll be making her second Bengaluru appearance; and Kenyan Edith Chelimo, who improved her personal best to 31:07 this year.
Ethiopian Geremew set for title defence
In the men’s race, 2015 champion Mosinet Geremew of Ethiopia will face a daunting task in his quest to become the first back-to-back winner in Bengaluru. But he'll arrive prepared.
Like Jepchirchir, the 24-year-old Geremew triumphed at last month's Yangzhou International Half Marathon in a close race, winning by just one second in 1:00:43.
Geremew won the Hyderabad 10K three years ago in 27:36, the fastest 10km ever run on Indian soil and is one of six men in the field who have dipped under 28 minutes, suggesting that any assault on Geoffrey Kamworor's 27:44 race record from 2014 will require a fiercely competitive contest.
The strong field includes a very familiar name, Patrick Makau, the former world record holder in the marathon, who will race in India for the first time.
"I'm still strong, running very strong," said Makau, whose 2:03:38 run in Berlin in 2011 erased Haile Gebrselassie's name from the marathon record books.
Makau, 31, said he's fully mended from an injury to his left knee that sidelined him for nearly two years.
"My training has been good and I'm really looking forward to the race," said Makau, who will bring a 27:57 personal best to the start line on Sunday.
But the runner bringing the best form to India's IT capital is Cyprian Kotut who arrives on the heels of victories in the Paris Marathon and Paris Half Marathon this spring and after being named as a reserve for Kenya's Olympic marathon squad.
He's particularly excited to return to India two years after clocking his 59:12 half marathon personal best in New Delhi.
"Mentioning India reminds me of my personal best in the half marathon," Kotut said.
"So when I was told that I would run in the Bengaluru 10K, I felt that I will run well because I love running in India so much."
Notable too is that Kotut is the younger brother of Martin Lel, the three-time London Marathon and two-time New York City Marathon winner.
"He is a mentor to me, and my motivation," Kotut said.
Gideon Kipketer, who won January's Mumbai Marathon, is another runner to watch.
The 23-year-old began that race as a pace maker but went on to break the course record by almost one minute. More recently he was a pace setter at the London Marathon guiding Eliud Kipchoge through 25 kilometres of his near world record run.
The field also includes Kenyan Edwin Kipyego, the winner at the 2012 Delhi Half Marathon and this year's Hague Half Marathon who has a 27:36 best; Mule Wasihun of Ethiopia, who improved his marathon best to 2:05:44 this year; Kenyan John Langat, with 27:58 10K credentials; and Ethiopian Bira "Fikadu" Seboka, the surprise runner-up in this race last year.
All the athletes will be gunning for a share of the total prize pot of US$ 197,768, with US$ 23,000 going to the men’s and women’s race winners.
The men's elite race sets off at 07:25 local time (GMT+5:30) and the women's at 08:10 (GMT+5:30). The race will be streamed live at www.tcsworld10k.procamrunning.in from 07:00 to 10:00.