By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, March 9 (Xinhua) -- Kenyans Valary Jemeli Aiyabei and Flomena Cheyech will face off at the Nagoya Women's Marathon on Sunday, hoping to run a new course record.
The race, part of the IAAF Gold label race, is the largest woman-only marathon in the world.
Aiyabei is the fastest in the field of 17 invitees, with a personal best of 2:20:53 recorded at the Berlin Marathon last September where she finished third. Prior to that Aiyabei won four straight marathons: Eldoret, Barcelona, Valencia and Prague.
"I am in the best shape now and want to add the titles I have won. This year there are no major races for the national team and winning in Nagoya will be a dream to me," Aiyabei.
The 26-year-old has also improved her lifetime best in each of her last four races, from Barcelona to Berlin. Her half marathon lifetime best of 1:07:50 also came in 2017 with her victory at the Prague Half Marathon.
Her main challenger is Cheyech, whose marathon best of 2:21:22 was set at the 2017 Paris Marathon where she too finished third. The 35-year-old followed up that performance with a fourth place finish at the IAAF World Championships London 2017.
More recently Cheyech, the 2014 Commonwealth Games champion, won the Saitama Marathon in November and paced January's Osaka Women's Marathon through the midway point in 1:12:02. Cheyech's half marathon best is 1:07:39, faster than Aiyabei's.
The course record is 2:21:17 set by Eunice Kirwa last year.
Other contenders from abroad include Merima Mohammed of Bahrain, who has a marathon personal best of 2:23:06 from 2010 and Ethiopian Meskerem Assefa, who clocked 2:24:18 at the 2017 Rotterdam Marathon. Enditem