The 2011 Vienna City Marathon is set to boost the best ever men's field as Kenyan Paul Kirui goes for compatriot's Abel Kirui's course record, with strong Europeans - Baranovsky and Felix in tow.
Organisers of the 28th Vienna City Marathon tend to look a bit towards Iceland in these days. But since there are now signs of a new volcano eruption there is some relief.
"This year all the elite athletes are either already here or on their way and we expect everyone to be fit for the race," said Wolfgang Konrad, the Race Director of Austria's biggest and best quality road race.
In 2010, the Vienna City Marathon had suffered from the no fly zone over Europe and one of those who did not make it to the Austrian capital was Eliud Kiptanui. The Kenyan then went on to smash the course record in Prague with 2:05:39.
More than 32,000 runners have already entered the Vienna City Marathon, which also includes a half marathon. While Ethiopia's superstar Haile Gebrselassie will run the shorter event at today's press conference the focus was on the classic distance.
The Vienna City Marathon will be shown live on the internet on Sunday from 8:40 am (start at 8:58 am) at: http://www.vienna-marathon.com.
Much was about Haile Gebrselassie in recent months in the Austrian press. And so far it was almost unnoticed that the marathon actually will see its best ever field regarding the depth of the elite athletes.
A dozen runners feature personal bests of sub 2:10. And six of them so far have run faster than 2:08. With such quality and a very promising weather forecast the course record of 2:07:38 is an obvious target.
Abel Kirui, the reigning World Marathon Champion, holds the current course record, which he established three years ago.
On Sunday Kirui could be followed by Kirui. Because Paul Kirui, who has no relationship with his fellow countryman, is the one with the fastest personal best in the field. He had clocked 2:06:44 when taking second place in Rotterdam.
Since then he has shown a string of fine performances, clocking sub 2:10 times in each year.
"But I also had a number of injury problems in recent years. That is why I never was able to break my personal best. But this time the built-up went very well," said 31 year-old Paul Kirui, who had won the gold medal at the World Half Marathon Championships in 2004.
While Isaac Macharia (PB: 2:07:16), Nicholas Chelimo ( 2:07:38), Patrick Ivuti ( 2:07:46) and Shadrack Kiplagat ( 2:07:53) are the other Kenyans in with sub 2:08 personal bests there is also one European among this group: Dimitry Baranovsky returns to the Vienna City Marathon.
The Ukrainian clocked his personal best of 2:07:15 when placing second in Fukuoka in 2006. Earlier in that year he had been third in Vienna with 2:10:36. Now the 31 year-old intends to do better, but it will get tough and probably he will need to run near to his personal best on Sunday.
Another European has done well in Vienna more recently and returns as well: Henryk Szost (Poland) was fourth a year ago with a personal best of 2:10:27.
"Although we have a very good women's field as well I would think it is more likely that we will see a men's course record than a women's record. This is also because the women's mark is quite a strong one," said Wolfgang Konrad.
It was Italy's Maura Viceconte, who established the course record of 2:23:47 back in 2000.
Two newcomers to the distance could be in with a surprise on Sunday: Kenya's Peninah Arusei will run her debut, while Portugal's Ana Dulce Felix intends to complete her first marathon as well.
Both have recently shown encouraging form. Peninah Arusei, who had three times won the Berlin 25 k race, took the Paris half marathon a month ago with 68:30 minutes.
It is interesting and could be a promising sign that in this race she beat Philes Ongori, who then went on to win her marathon debut in Rotterdam last Sunday with 2:24:20. Ana Dulce Felix hopes to develop into one of Europe's leading women marathon runners. She recently improved her half marathon best to 68:33, when she was second in Lisbon.
While Arusei and Felix will most probably head for a sub 2:25 time there are plenty of runners with good marathon experience in the elite field as well.
Five of them feature personal bests between 2:26 and 2:29: Genet Getaneh (Ethiopia/2:26:37), Elza Kireyeva (Russia/2:28:02), Diana Lobacevske (Lithuania/2:28:03), Fate Tola (Ethiopia/2:28:22) and Elisabeth Chemweno (Kenya/2:28:55).
"We hope to see an exciting women's race on Sunday," said Wolfgang Konrad.