Champ Masai to debut in Amsterdam marathon, steeplechaser Kemboi eyes road races

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Former world champions Linet Masai and Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya plan to break into the marathon elite runners after retiring from the track competition.


Masai, a former World 10,000m champion, will have a baptism by fire when she reignites her rivalry with former Olympic champion Meseret Defar at the Amsterdam marathon in Netherlands in Oct. 21.


Masai has not been active for the last two years as she delivered her baby. However, she feels it will be good to plunge to the deep end of athletics and the Dutch capital will provide good ground for her hunt as she takes her career a notch higher.


"I am ready for the marathon," she said. "My management has been able to get me a race in Amsterdam and I want to see how my body will react to it. I have hopes of doing well, but am also not certain how it will go. It is my first marathon race."


In Amsterdam, Masai will face twice Olympic 5,000m champion Meseret Defar, with whom they have dueled a lot on the track ever since she broke the duck at the 2007 World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa.


Both Masai and Defar will be making their marathon debut in Amsterdam on Oct. 21 after battling loss of form and shaking off motherhood rust.


The Ethiopian has run several half-marathons with a best of 66:09 for second in the Great North Run in 2013.


Compatriot Tadelech Bekele, who won last year in 2:21:54 and went 14 seconds quicker for third and a personal best time at the London Marathon in 2018, will be in her way.


Masai, the 2009 world 10,000m champion who has run 68:11 for the half is also keen to break the 42km jinx.


Other athletes to watch out for include Meseret Belete, who set a world junior record of 67:51 in Copenhagen this year and was eighth at the World Championships.


Former world junior cross country bronze medalist Jackline Chepngeno will also be eyeing victorious debut in marathon. Ethiopia's Guteni Shone, who has a PB of 2:23:32, could also challenge.


Miranda Boonstra, who has a best of 2:27:32, leads home hopes. Meanwhile, Olympic winner and four time world champion in steeple Ezekiel Kemboi plans to make his debut in the marathon next year.


"I was motivated by [Eliud] Kipchoge with whom we were together in 2003 during the World Championships. I will be venturing into the 42km race, where I want to perform well just like in the track. My first marathon race will be in Europe and I'm yet to confirm it," said Kemboi, who ran a 66:52 half-marathon this year before three steeplechase races culminated with a sixth at the Kenyan Championships (8:34.90).


Kemboi is yet to settle on which city course he intends to debut in marathon.

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