Eritrean duo Nazret Weldu and Dolshi Tesfu head the women’s start list of the Vienna City Marathon taking place on April 21. The organizers announced the battle by the duo in a release on Friday, March 15.

Weldu and Tesfu, who are by some distance the fastest Eritrean women marathon runners in history. They will be challenged by Kenyans Shyline Toroitich and Rebecca Tanui. There are hopes that the 41st edition of Austria’s major road race will see an attempt to break the course record, which currently stands at 2:20:59.

Rebecca Tanui running in Vienna in 2023. Photo credit: Leo Hagen / VCM

Including races at shorter distances the organisers of the Vienna City Marathon expect to register over 40,000 entries for the 41st edition. Around 10,000 will race the marathon. The Vienna City Marathon is a World Athletics Elite Label Road Race.

The long-standing record

It took 19 years until the women’s course record of Italy’s late Maura Viceconte was finally broken in the Austrian capital in 2019. Kenya’s Nancy Kiprop improved the mark to 2:22:12. However Kiprop’s time lasted much shorter than Viceconte’s. In 2022 fellow Kenyan Vibian Chepkirui clocked 2:20:59. 

Nazret Weldu and Dolshi Tesfu have both already run faster than Vienna’s course record. The 34-year-old Weldu clocked a national record of 2:20:29 when she took fourth place in the World Championships Marathon in Eugene in 2022. Weldu won the Daegu Marathon in South Korea with a 2:21:56 performance in 2022 and then placed sixth in Boston in 2023 in 2:23:25. Competing in a hot World Championships race in Budapest last summer Weldu finished eighth with 2:27:23. Despite this series of strong performances Weldu still has not achieved the Olympic qualifying standard for Paris. She will want to make sure in Vienna that she runs fast enough to get into the Olympic race.

Dolshi Tesfu features a personal best of 2:20:40. The 24-year-old, ran this time in her debut marathon when she finished ninth in Valencia in 2022. During the race, Tesfu ran the first half in 68:53. It was by far the fastest half-marathon time ever run by an Eritrean. Tesfu then showed fine form in her two marathons in 2023. First, she was runner-up in Rotterdam in 2:21:35 and then she finished 10th in the 2023 Budapest World Athletics Championships. She is already qualified for the Olympic marathon.  

When Weldu and Tesfu compete in Vienna they may attack two records in one go. The course record stands at 2:20:59 and the national record is 2:20:29.

On the start list is Helalia Johannes who owns a sub 2:20 PB. The 43-year-old Namibian ran 2:19:52 in 2020 and has held the masters world record since then. 

Kenyans and Mexican seeking Olympic qualification

Two Kenyan women could be the main challengers for Weldu and Tesfu. They are Shyline Toroitich and Rebecca Tanui both know how to win marathons. Toroitich took the Enschede Marathon last year in a personal best time of 2:22:45. Tanui won the San Sebastian Marathon in 2022 with a PB of 2:23:09. She also won in Venice last autumn. Tanui will have the advantage of knowing the course in Vienna since she was fourth there last year in 2:26:34. The conditions were not adverse, but it was rather warm. 

For Andrea Ramirez Limon the Vienna City Marathon presents the last chance to achieve qualification for the Olympic Games. The Mexican has a personal best of 2:26:34. However she ran this back in 2020, so it does not count as an Olympic qualifier for Paris. While the qualifying time is 2:26:50, Limon will likely need to be faster to qualify to be ranked top 80 globally.

Austria’s record holder Julia Mayer has achieved qualification since she was among the 64 pre-qualified athletes at the end of January with her PB of 2:26:43. She will be among a group of runners who target the Olympic qualifying standard.

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