2023 Valencia Marathon

Joshua Cheptegei, Almaz Ayana Headline Valencia Marathon

Joshua Cheptegei, Almaz Ayana Headline Valencia Marathon

Some of the fastest track runners of all time in Joshua Cheptegei and Almaz Ayana will race alongside proven greats at the Valenica Marathon on Sunday.

Dec 1, 2023 by Joe Battaglia
Joshua Cheptegei, Almaz Ayana Headline Valencia Marathon

One of the fastest marathon courses in the world will welcome some of the fastest track runners of all time alongside some proven greats at the Valenica Marathon on Sunday.

Historic Men's Debut

All eyes will be on the men’s race where Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei, the Olympic champion in the 5000m and three-time reigning world champion at 10,000m, will step up to the 26.2-mile distance for the first time.

As the sitting world record holder in the 5000m and 10,000m, the xx-year-old joins Emil Zatopek of Czechoslovakia, Lasse Viren of Finland, and Ethiopians Haile Gebrselasie and Kenenisa Bekele as the only men in history to debut in the marathon while still holding both records on the track. 

 It will be interesting to see whether Cheptegei has gotten himself into good racing form. Last month, he told Race Results Weekly that a foot injury delayed the start of his training block and muddy conditions at this training base limited his volumee to 87-99 miles per week.

Cheptegei will face a formidable field which includes five men on the startlist with personal bests under 2:04 and five more with PBs under 2:05.

The best of that bunch is Gabriel Geay of Tanzania, who ran 2:03:00 to finish second in this race last year to world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya, and finished runner-up to Evans Chebet at the Boston Marathon in April, clocking 2:06:04.

The Ethiopian contingent lined up will be quite formidable. Chalu Deso used a sixth-place finish in this race in 2022 as a springboard to winning the Tokyo Marathon in 2:05:22. Sisay Lemma, the 2021 London Marathon champion, carries a 2:03:36 personal best into the race. Leul Gebresilase is coming of a bronze-medal performance at the World Championships this summer in Budapest and has placed in the top three in four of his last five races. 

And then there is Bekele, who at age 41 is still looking to regain some of the magic that arguably put him on the Mount Rushmore of distance running. His last truly spectacular effort came four years ago, when he ran 2:01:19 at the Berlin Marathon. This spring, he appeared unfit and dropped out of the London Marathon.

Ethiopians Top Women's Field

The women’s race will feature a pair of former world record holders on the track in Ethiopians Almaz Ayana and Genzebe Dibaba.

This will be the third marathon for Ayana, who won in Amsterdam last year in 2:17:20, then the fastest debut in history. Two months later, fellow Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey lowered that mark when she finished second her maiden marathon here in 2:16:49. Ayana did not fare as well in London in April finishing seventh in 2:20:44.

Dibaba, who will be racing her fourth marathon here, also made her debut in Amsterdam last year, finishing second to Ayana in 2:18:05. She will be racing here on a tight turnaround from her eighth-place finish in Chicago, where she clocked 2:21:47. Dibaba dropped out of the London Marathon in April.

Worknesh Degefa will be racing her first marathon in nearly three years. Since winning the Dubai Marathon in 2:19:38 in 2000, the 33-year-old has had a baby and not raced a full competitive marathon. She tuned up for this race in October with a victory in the Trento Half-Marathon in 67:48.

The women’s field took a major hit on Thursday when Tsehay Gemechu, the top seed, was provisionally suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit for an Athlete Biological Passport violation. For the moment, Gemechu owns a personal-best of 2:16:56.