It may be hard to beat the excitement of the elite races at last year’s Bloomsday.
Of course, they said that last year, before the men’s and women’s 12-kilometer races were decided by 1 second in one of the most dramatic days the event has seen.
In the women’s field of the 36th Bloomsday, defending champion Misiker Mekonnin returns, but she’s run three marathons in the last four months.
“It will be interesting to see if that will have any effect on her closing speed, because in this field, she’s going to need it,” said Jon Neill, Bloomsday elite athlete coordinator.
Mekonnin, 25, won this year’s Hong Kong Marathon and finished second in Los Angeles and Honolulu.
Last year’s runner-up, fellow Ethiopian Wude Ayalew, won’t be back, and Neill acknowledged the women’s field may not be as deep as last year’s, but predicts a faster pace will be forced by Ethiopian Mamitu Daska, who was second two years ago in the fastest women’s race in Bloomsday history, and by Kenyans Jelliah Tinega (third last year) and Genoveva Kigen.
Unlike last year, this won’t be a tactical race, said Neill, who added it’s not the style of Daska or Kigen to “sit back and then kick.”
Instead, Neill predicts the top racers will “open the throttle and see who can suffer the most.”
A dark horse could be 41-year-old Liubov Denisova of Russia.
In the men’s event, last year’s runner-up, Allan Kiprono won’t have to deal with defending champ Simon Ndirangu, who is bypassing the race.
Kiprono, 22, is on a streak, winning the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run in Washington, D.C., by 73 seconds in a course-record 45:15.
But he’ll face a deep group of east Africans, including Kenyan Stephen Muange, a third-place finisher here two years ago who is coming off a second place in the Los Angeles Marathon; Kenyan MacDonard Ondara, fourth here last year; and Dereje Tadessa of Ethiopia.
Gilbert Okari, the 2006 champion, is a dark-horse candidate to win this year, Neill said. Josh Moen, 10th overall last year, returns to defend his U.S. title. Three-time champ John Korir will also compete. He won Bloomsday in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
In the Wheelchair Division, five-time champion Amanda McCrory is back to defend her title. She won the Paris Marathon this year with a time of 1:55:50 and finished sixth in the London Marathon.
Race director Don Kardong said overall numbers are running about 2,000 less than last year’s 56,000-participant pace. … Janet Cherobon-Bawcom, last year’s sixth-place finisher, will speak at two school assemblies today. The Kenyan-born runner, a naturalized American citizen, will speak at Lincoln Heights Elementary at 10 a.m. and at Wilson at 1:45 p.m. … For the first time, Bloomsday will use B-Tag timing by Chronotrack. Runners will receive race bibs with a built-in B-Tag timer. Participants should place their race bibs on the front of their torso by pinning all four corners.