Two athletes who have both run in Vienna once before are among the hot favorites for Sunday’s Vienna City Marathon. Bethwell Yegon returns after finishing runner-up in last year’s race. With a personal best of 2:06:14 the Kenyan is the second fastest on the start list, just three seconds behind Chala Regasa. When the Ethiopian competed in Austria’s capital it was a very different mission. He was part of the pacemaking team that guided Eliud Kipchoge to the sensational sub 2:00:00 marathon in 2019. 

Organizers of the Vienna City Marathon have now registered more than 42,500 athletes for the 41st edition of their race. Among them are over 10,000 marathon runners. The Vienna City Marathon, which starts at 9 am local time on Sunday, is an Elite Label Road Race of World Athletics.

Chala Regasa, Bethwell Yegon and Felix Kibitok, credit: VCM / Jenia Symonds

Chala Regasa has very good memories of running in Vienna. Pacing Eliud Kipchoge almost five years ago he was in the very first group of runners at the start and then later also paced the final section and ran into the finish behind the great Kenyan. “We made history on that day and in my whole life I will never forget that race and this great city,“ said the 26-year-old Ethiopian during today’s press conference at Vienna’s Hotel Savoyen. 

After that monumental marathon in October 2019 it took almost four years before Chala Regasa finally ran the full marathon distance for the first time. A year ago he produced a fine debut in Rotterdam in 2:06:11 and placed fifth in a very competitive race. Now he hopes to improve this time. “I don’t want to hold back, and if necessary I will push the pace myself. I will try to break my personal best and achieve a sub 2:06 time,“ said Chala Regasa. 

Currently, cold conditions with temperatures between 4 and 7 Celsius and a little wind is forecasted for Sunday. That could suit the Ethiopian. “Cooler weather is normally good for the marathon,“ he said.

While Chala Regasa only knows the start and the super flat parts of the course in the Prater Park Bethwell Yegon has the advantage of having run the full course last year. He was second in the Vienna City Marathon and clocked a fine 2:06:57 in unusually warm conditions, beaten only by the new course record holder Samwel Mailu. The Kenyan won in 2:05:08. “I am usually doing well in warm conditions. But I am prepared for any weather,“ said Bethwell Yegon, who was second in Berlin back in 2021 when he clocked his PB of 2:06:14. “My training was good and if weather conditions are fine and the pacemakers are strong we should run faster than last year. May be we can attack the course record,“ said Bethwell Yegon.

In contrast to Regasa and Yegon it will be the first race in Vienna for Felix Kibitok, who has a PB of 2:06:28. He is expected to join the two in the leading group on Sunday. “I have trained well and hope to break my personal best,“ said Felix Kibitok, who explained that he struggled at first when he switched from the half marathon to the full distance. Kibitok ran his debut in Ljubljana in 2018 in 2:19:22. Four years later he achieved his breakthrough performance in Barcelona where he improved to 2:06:28. A very strong half marathon PB of 59:08 suggests that there is more to come.  

“I am fine now running the marathon. In Kenya, I train with a strong group, among them is Evans Chebet,“ said Felix Kibitok. Chebet is a two-time Boston Marathon winner who also took New York and was runner-up in Boston on Monday.

While the leading group is expected to be relatively small on Sunday there will be a larger number of athletes who want to achieve Olympic qualification in Vienna. A time of at least 2:08:10 is required for a place in the Paris race in August. Belgium’s Lahsene Bouchikhi (PB: 2:08:36), Daniel Paulus of Namibia (2:08:40) and Mexican Juan Pacheco (2:09:45) are among those who will go for the qualifying time. After a longer period of injury problems and health issues, such an ambitious time goal comes too early for Austria’s 2:10:06 record holder Peter Herzog.

Kenyans Raymond Komen (2:18:21) and Edmon Rono, who will run his debut on Sunday, are part of the “OPEC Fund Rookie Team”. Both target sub 2:10 times in Vienna.

Elite men

Chala Regasa ETH 2:06:11

Bethwell Yegon KEN 2:06:14

Felix Kibitok KEN 2:06:28

Albert Kangogo KEN 2:07:48

Lahsene Bouchikhi BEL 2:08:36

Daniel Paulus NAM 2:08:40

Leonard Barsoton KEN 2:09:06

Bernard Muia KEN 2:09:17

Mica Cheserek KEN 2:09:26

Juan Pacheco MEX 2:09:45

Tiidrek Nurme EST 2:10:02

Peter Herzog AUT 2:10:06

Ivan Gonzalez COL 2:11:07

Daviti Kharazishvili GEO 2:11:46

Ngonidzashe Ncube ZIM 2:11:46

Omar Hassan Omar DEN 2:12:19

Cameron Avery NZL 2:12:30

Mario Bauernfeind AUT 2:12:49

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