Focus on Budapest 2023: Marathon and Race Walking

April 06, 2023

With the qualifying window for the 2023 Budapest World Athletics Championships closing next month for some disciplines, it is time for athletic fans to begin wondering what to expect in some of the events. Which athletes are likely to defend their titles? Who are the new emerging stars? This week, we look at the Marathon and the Race Walking events and where the winners will likely come from. Ireland includes countries with athletes who have met the qualifying standards in these events. They include David Kenny (1:19:44) in the men's 20 km Walk Race and Fionnula Mccormack (2:23:58) in the women's marathon event. The qualifying period for these events opened on December 1, 2021, and will close on May 30, 2023. For the 10,000m, 20km race walk and combined events, the window runs from January 31, 2022, to July 30, 2023. For every other event, the qualification period is July 31, 2022, to July 30, 2023. As most elite runners rush to make the qualifying times in some of the world's fastest marathon courses this month, all the marathon medalists from Eugene, besides those qualifying as defending champions, already ran under the current qualification standard times of 2:09:40 and 2:28:00 for men and women respectively. The women's defending champion is Ethiopia's Gotytom Gebreslase, who won the gold medal in Eugene in a time of 2:18:11. The silver medal went to Kenya's Judith Korir in 2:18:20 while Israeli's Lornah Salpeter won the bronze medal in 2:20:18. While standard tracks are almost similar in their elevation and surfaces, the roads, on the other hand, can never be the same. They could be the reason why we have only a few champions on the events done on the roads being able to defend their titles successfully. While it is still quite early in the year, Kenya's Rosemary Wanjiru currently has the fastest time for the women's marathon event this year, at 2:16:28. Nine out of the top ten fastest female runners so far are from either Kenya or Ethiopia. In the history of the women's marathon event, only Kenya's Ednah Kiplagat has ever managed to defend her title after winning the 2011 and 2013 titles. It is slightly different for men. Abel Antón of Spain (1997 and 1999), Jaouad Gharib of Morocco (2003 and 2005) and Abel Kirui of Kenya (2009 and 2011) have managed to defend their world titles in the event. The men's defending champion from 2022 is Ethiopia's Tamirat Tola, who won the title in a new championship record of 2:05:36 ahead of compatriot Mosinet Geremew (2:06:44) and Abdi Bashir of Belgium (2:06:48). Canada's Cameron Levins just missed the podium in an impressive national record time of 2:07:09. Still, he will be one of the big stars to watch out for in Budapest after bettering his personal best time to a new area record of 2:05:36 at the Tokyo Marathon earlier this year. The marathon event at the world championships has always been dominated by Kenyans in both the men's and the women's events, with a total of five male and four female gold medalists. Spain and Ethiopia follow with three gold medalists in the men's event, while Portugal, Morocco and Ethiopia follow with two gold medalists in the women's category. Interestingly, only one Kenyan man is in the top ten fastest runners this year. Ethiopia's Gadisa Shumie is the current world leader at 2:04:59. In the race Walking events, Japan's Toshikazu Yamanishi has won consecutive titles at the 2019 and 2022 world championships in the men's 20 km event and in a show of dominance of the event by Japanese walkers, his countryman, Koki Ikeda, finished in the silver medal position at the last edition of the championships in Eugene, Oregon. Ikeda currently leads the world's top list with a 1:18:36 time he registered in February. Out of the top five, there are three Japanese walkers. The women's race has been dominated of late by Chinese walkers. Liu Hong won 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2019 world championship titles. Peru's Kimberly Garcia won the 2022 title but is yet to show a significant performance this year in the distance, although she tops the world list in the 35 km distance. Three of the top five performers for the 20 Km distance this year are Chinese walkers. The 35 km race walk event is relatively new in the World Athletics Championships' calendar and only became a standard championship discipline in Eugene last year. Interestingly, the longer walking race for the women yielded the same order of results in Eugene as Garcia led Poland's Katarzyna Zdziebło and China's Shijie Qieyang to occupy the podium positions. However, the men's results for the 35 km distance were different. Massimo Stano of Italy won ahead of Masatora Kawano of Japan and Perseus Karlstrom of Sweden.

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