Defending women’s champion Valary Aiyabei has pulled out of the Eldoret Marathon which will be held on June 6.
Instead, she will compete in the “Battle of the Teams” race in Czech Republic, which will be held in place of Prague Marathon that had been scheduled for the same day. Prague Marathon organisers postponed the event to October due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Aiyabei won the 2019 edition of Eldoret Marathon after timing two hours, 27 minutes, seven seconds (2:27:17) ahead of Kapsait-based Vivian Kiplagat who clocked 2:28:06 while Elizabeth Rumokol settled for third place in 2:33:01.
The athlete said it will not be possible to compete in the Eldoret Marathon next Sunday when she jets back from Czech Republic next week.
Aiyabei said that she would have loved to compete at home because it is the best place for an athlete to test his or her ability against tough opponents prior to a major international competition.
“I will not be defending my title on Sunday, because I’m out of the country. It is always good to run at home, because almost every competitor is good and they will always challenge your ability to go for the prize,” said Aiyabei.
After winning Eldoret Marathon, Aiyabei bagged victory in the Frankfurt Marathon in a course record record time of 2:19:10 in 2019.
Aiyabei’s absence in the Eldoret race leaves the field wide open. The battle is left to 2016 Tokyo Marathon champion, Helah Kiprop, who is also the 2015 World Athletics Championships marathon silver medallist and Abu Dhabi Marathon champion Vivian Kiplagat, among others.
Eldoret Marathon race director Moses Tanui told Nation Sport that they will record the course record because the electronic timing system will be in use for the first time since the inaugural edition in 2019. He also said that the registration process is underway.
The first and only edition of the championship was held in 2019.
Last year, the event was cancelled after the government suspended sporting activities due to coronavirus pandemic. The winners in both the men’s and women’s races will pocket Sh3.5 million prize money.
“We expect a good number of athletes to compete on that day and by yesterday 398 had registered as the deadline looms. We shall not be extending the registration date and anyone who is looking forward to participate in the race should hurry up,” said Tanui.
Concerning the coronavirus pandemic health protocols, he said the top 20 athletes will be at the finish line while all the other athletes will leave immediately upon crossing the line.
“We won’t be holding athletes at the finish line, those who will be held are those in prize money bracket only. The athletes will be so many and we shall release them immediately when they cross the line because we don’t want to be the super spreaders of the virus,” added Tanui.
Athletes will also be supplied with masks at the start line after their temperatures are measurd. Before the race starts, they will remove masks and upon finishing the race, officials will be there to supply them with other masks.
He has also asked athletes to collect their bib numbers onThursday, Friday or on the eve of the race.
All participants in the 42km race are expected to be at the start line in Sogomo next to the University of Eldoret by 5.00am next Sunday.