Having invited runners from all over Europe to compete, we offered them a unique formula – a team competition in the marathon. From this year on, it will be as important as the struggles for individual victory, as the prizes are also quite unique. We write about such things elsewhere, here – let’s have a look at the favourites.
Who are the favourites then? Whose fight will be particularly close? At the first glance, it seems that a very strong team was lined up by Ukraine, where Olha Nyzhnyk (better known under her maiden name Skrypak) stands out with a personal best of 2:27:58. In theory, she should be a surefire favourite, but… this is a marathon. Things happen – especially that Olha returns to the marathon distance after a maternity leave.
Behind her back – though that’s mainly paper-based theory – there are several other players with big ambitions. The biggest unknown and the most serious candidate for a surprise is the Italian Benedetta Coliva, who is only 22 years old, made her debut at the royal distance in December last year and immediately gave a tour de force by winning the Pisa Marathon in 2:35:43. She is a few minutes away from the Ukrainian lady’s time, but … it’s a marathon! For us, the Italian’s absence on the podium would be a surprise, rather than her high place.
Ewa Jagielska, the only female runner from Poland in the group, ran only one second slower last year. Ewa did it in Warsaw, which gave her the third place and the satisfaction of improving her PB by… 6 minutes! Ewa Jagielska is planning an assault on the Polish record in the +40 category this year, and since together with Benedetta they are in the same crew (the multi-national Continental team), they will certainly be able to count on mutual help on the route.
And then there’s Hanna Vandenbussche from Belgium. No doubt the personal best of 2:34.44 lets her think about the podium. It’s getting tight, though, because we haven’t mentioned the second athlete from Ukraine – Maryna Nemchenko. With the result of 2:35.31, she is a perfect complement to equally fast rivals, but also … a great back-up for Olha Nyzhnyk.
What about the gentlemen?
Again, an athlete representing our eastern neighbours – Vitaliy Shafar – comes first to mind among the strongest. Shafar won the Warsaw Marathon seventeen years ago, clocking in at 2:12:26, which was then an event record. Today, he runs almost as fast and is certainly hoping to win, which would be a historic triumph. But will he succeed? Behind the favourite’s back, the tussle is going to be tight. Several runners are at the forefront, attempting to thwart the Ukrainian’s plan.
Briton Dan Nash comes to Warsaw with a result of 2:15.34, which for an amateur – and that’s what Dan calls himself – is an impressive time. 2:16.35 is the Hungarian Levente Szemerei’s PB, but it is worth noting that at the recent world championships in Budapest Levi ran only one minute slower than Poland’s Adam Nowicki – no mean feat given the tropical conditions.
It is also worth paying attention to the seemingly inconspicuous Belgian Enzo Noel, who only this year seriously took up his training and it brought him not just in the 10k national championship, but also a half-marathon PB of 1:04.12. Let’s add to this the Pole Artur Olejarz, preparing for his first serious start in the marathon, plus Belgian Yohan Zaradzki and the second Hungarian Peter Jenkei who also musn’t be discounted- and we have an interesting set of candidates, getting to grips for the podium.
And finally, who’s got a pole position as a team? Undoubtedly, the runners from Ukraine appear to be favourites, but the tussle for the second place will likely go on till last seconds. Belgium, Hungary, Team Continental – here the case seems open.