Chris Zablocki insists he can break up the Kenyan cartel in tomorrow’s Edinburgh Marathon, even though the American will be running the distance for the seventh time in 2016.
The Stateside contender, 25, reckons jet lag cost him an Olympic shot when he slumped to 30th at the US trials in February but believes a field that includes defending champion Peter Wanjiru is within his reach.
“I know I’ll be able to stay with them until half-way at the very least and then it becomes about who has a better day and has a bit of luck,” he said. “As long as there’s not a little guy sitting behind me the whole time to shelter from the wind, I should have a shot.”
With a deep pool of Kenyans to supplement a number of European arrivals in the Capital, the course record of 2:15:26 – which was set 11 years ago by Wanjiru’s compatriot Zachary Kihara – is set to come under attack with a clutch of sub-2:15 challengers.
Wanjiru, now 32, overcame strong winds to triumph 12 months ago in 2:19:34 by capitalising on the turmoil from an overly-quick first half of the course, pulling away from Scottish contender Neil Renault and 2014 runner-up Japhet Koech to head a 12,000-strong field.
“I want to win again,” he said. “It is a flat course but the conditions are tough. But I like how I am feeling now.”
Koech has also returned for a fourth successive year to take on a course that begins on Regent Road and heads out into East Lothian before ending up in Pinkie Park in Musselburgh.
Another Kenyan, Boaz Kiprono, may be the likeliest rival to Wanjiru after his victory in the 2015 Bournemouth Marathon, although Ukraine’s Oleksandr Sitkovskyy, currently preparing to beat his 12th place at London 2012 in this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio, will also be a strong contender after lowering his personal best to 2:09:11 in Marrakesh last year.
Kenya’s Joan Kigen defends the women’s title she took in 2:39:43 12 months ago. Compatriots Eddah Jepkosgei and Hildah Cheboi may threaten her reign but the quickest in the field is Ukraine’s Olena Burkovska with the now 34-year-old capable of closing on the 2:30 mark.
Scottish veteran Hayley Haining, who finished 12th at the 2014 Commonwealth Games at the age of 42, returns to the marathon following a two-year break to headline domestic hopes.