Wangari, Lagat lead Kenya's contingent in Hengshui Marathon in China

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Gunsan Marathon champion Mirriam Wangari and Cosmas Kipimo Lagat lead a five-member Kenya delegation to Hengshui Lake International Marathon in China, eyeing to break the course records.


The race staged in Hengshui city is an IAAF Silver Label road race. Speaking in Nairobi, Wangari, a veteran in China marathons, says she has recovered well after clinching the Gunsan Marathon in South Korea in April.


"My focus is now on winning the Hengshui race," Wangari told Xinhua in Nairobi.


"I love running in China because of their good organization and the international stars that are paraded in the marathons. I believe with good weather I will be able to improve on my personal best time of 2:07:53 set in Xiamen in 2015."


The 39-year-old is not about to hang her running spikes. She targets Hengshui Marathon course record of 2:25:43 set by compatriot Agnes Jepkemboi Kiprop in 2015.


Wangari debuted late at the 2012 Xiamen Marathon where she was fifth.


In 2015, she was second at the Dongying Yellow River Marathon and was fifth at the Xiamen race in 2015. In 2017 she was third in Nagano Marathon in Japan and fifth at Argentina's Buenos Aires Marathon.


In Hengshui, she will team up with Caroline Kilel, whose best time of 2:22:34 was set in 2013 in Frankfurt.


Since her marathon debut in 2003, the 27-year-old has won a series of titles including the 2011 Boston Marathon. Her last victory was in Daegu, South Korea two years ago clocking 2:27:39, but she has never managed to break 2:30 since.


In the men's race, Kenya's Cosmas Lagat, 27, is the man to watch. He owns a lifetime best of 2:08:14 from his second victory in Sevilla in 2016.


He also took top honors in the Spain in 2014 with a time of 2:08:33, but has never competed in China.


"I know there are top Ethiopians on the start list. But they have fast time, which will not count as we start in Hengshui Marathon. I have done well in training and believe I have the extra motivation to win the race," said Lagat in Nairobi.


The field also includes Kenyan duo Dominic Ruto (2:09:08) who won in Rome last year before setting the course record at the Beirut Marathon, and Mathew Kipsaat (2:09:19), who won the 2016 Tunis Marathon and 2017 Las Palmas Gran Canaria Marathon.


But neither of the duo has managed to dip under 2:10 in 2018. Ethiopia will be led by Lemi Berhanu, 24, who has a personal best of 2:04:33 set at the 2016 Dubai Marathon where he finished second.


It will be his fourth marathon race in China since his debut over the classic distance in 2014.


He claimed the Taiyuan Marathon title that year and went on to finish 15th at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing in 2:17:36. Last year, Berhanu clocked 2:08:27 to win the Xiamen Marathon.


On Saturday, he will attempt to break the 2:07:38 course record set by his compatriot Markos Geneti in 2014.


Endeshaw Negesse, also from Ethiopia, is the second fastest entrant with a best time of 2:04:52 from his fourth place finish in Dubai back in 2013.

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