From wild life marathon to the streets of Europe: Albert Matebor faces a strong field in Prague
The best ever elite fields in the history of the event will be on the starting line of the Volkswagen Prague Marathon this Sunday. Seven men have personal bests of sub 2:10 while half a dozen women have done better than 2:25 so far. Kenyans Albert Matebor and Lydia Cheromei are the two with the fastest times. Their personal bests stand at 2:05:25 and 2:21:30. A record number of 9,500 athletes have entered the Czech Republic’s premier running event. The 19th edition of the Volkswagen Prague Marathon is an IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
“We have a record number of participants with almost 10,000 runners and we will see the best elite field ever. Additionally we have more than 1,000 athletes running for charity and the Volkswagen Prague Marathon will be shown live on TV in China and many other countries. This is something I did never believe to be possible when we started many years ago,” said Carlo Capalbo, the Chairman of the Organising Committee.
With a runner like Albert Matebor competing on Sunday there is of course talk about the course record. Eliud Kiptanui (Kenya) established this mark in a sensational race in 2010, when he clocked 2:05:39. It is a very tough time to beat and Albert Matebor is well aware of this. “"I think I am in a 2:06 shape. But we have a strong field and when we work together well, than may be we can dip under 2:06 and perhaps even break the course record,"” said the 32 year-old, who ran his PB in Frankfurt in 2011.
When Albert Matebor was at school he did not think of becoming a professional runner. “When we competed at school I was average,” he remembers. His attitude changed when he saw athletes like William Kiplagat train in front of his door step in the Keiyo District. However after school he first chose to work at the farm of his brother. “I sold potatoes in the farm shop to earn some money.” After a year he started training seriously at the age of 21. “I knew I had potential and wanted to give it a try.”
Albert Matebor’s first race was a marathon through Kenya’s wild life in 2006. He finished third in the Lewa Marathon in Isiolo. “
"There were quite some wild animals not far away from the course, which can be frightening. I saw elephants and buffalos. Because of this there is armed security every two kilometres."
Albert Matebor ran 2:21 in muddy conditions on the hilly course. He was spotted by a representative of Jo Hermens’ management. That is how his international career started. However he did return to the Lewa Marathon a year later and won it in 2:19.
Nowadays Albert Matebor prefers Europe’s streets for marathon races. On Sunday among his rivals there will be six runners with personal bests of sub 2:10. Mariko Kipchumba (Kenya) is the second fastest in the field. He improved to 2:06:05 when he won the Reims Marathon in France in October 2012.
The others are Benjamin Kiptoo (Kenya/2:06:31), Teshome Gelana (Ethiopia/2:07:37), Nicholas Kemboi (Qatar/2:08:01), Julius Karinga (Kenya/2:08:01) and Girmay Birhanu (Ethiopia/2:08:11). Another one who could do very well in his debut is Amanuel Mesel. The 22 year-old Eritrean was second in the Hervis Prague Half Marathon a month ago with 60:10.
The women’s race will see the return of the course record holder: Lydia Cheromei won the race two years ago with 2:22:34. The Kenyan, who will turn 36 on the day before the Volkswagen Prague Marathon, is the fastest in the field with her PB of 2:21:30. However there could be at least half a dozen other women challenging Lydia Cheromei for victory on Sunday.
One of them is Caroline Rotich (Kenya), who improved to 2:23:22 in last year’s Chicago Marthon where she finished fifth. “
"I am in similar shape as before Chicago. So hopefully with the help of a very strong field I can further improve on Sunday. But of course I am not only looking at my time. I want to win," said Caroline Rotich, who lives in the USA and is coached by former Olympic triathlete Ryan Bolton (USA).
If weather conditions are suitable the women’s course record could fall. “I want to run between 2:20 and 2:21,” Philes Ongori had said after finishing second in the Berlin half marathon with 68:01 a month ago. The Kenyan has a personal best of 2:24:20. Koren Jelela (Ethiopia/2:22:43), Ehitu Kiros (Ethiopia/2:23:39), Japan’s Azusa Nojiri (2:24:57) and Selomie Getnet (Ethiopia/2:25:15) are also among the favourites.
More information about the Volkswagen Prague Marathon is available online at: RunCzech.com.