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Marathon weekend starts today

By Roger Seepersad

Local and international runners are expected to flood the streets around Queen’s Park Savannah today for the Schools Relay and a 5K run which will be the prelude to the 32nd Trinidad and Tobago International Marathon (TTIM) and Half-Marathon set to run off tomorrow.

The schools relay, which is open to all primary and secondary schools, gets under at 3 p.m. and will officially kicks off the two-day marathon festival weekend.

The school teams will cover four legs of one kilometre each, with the first leg starting and the last leg ending opposite Whitehall, at Queen’s Park Savannah.

The 5K, which is usually used as a warm-up for the marathon and half-marathon, takes place an hour later from 4 p.m. and will also start and finish opposite Whitehall.

Tomorrow, two-time defending women’s half-marathon champion Tonya Nero will be going for a hat-trick in that event, which is scheduled to start at 5.45 a.m. at Walker Park in Caroni.

The marathon starts at 5 a.m. at Freeport with last year’s marathon winner Juan Carlos Cardona of Colombia returning to try and defend his title.

The three-time Olympian, Cardona, finished last year’s race in two hours, 23 minutes and 51 seconds with Kenyan Mark Chepes coming in second in 2:24:32.

Chepes was also second in the 2012 marathon.

Also expected to be in the fray among the men are Kenya’s Hilary Kimaiyo, Phillip Lagat and Busienei Joshua Kipkosgei.

Kipkosgei was fifth last year while Lagat and Chepes are well known to T&T audiences having gained podium finishes in previous TTIMs.

Leading the local charge is T&T’s Curtis Cox, who finished eighth overall last year and was a previous winner in 2005.

Among the female participants,  Kenyan Leah Kigen will be returning to try and defend her title.

Kigen was elevated to champion last year after seven-time winner and 2013 female champion Mary Akor of the United States was handed a two-year ban by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) retroactive to May 6, 2013 after the runner tested positive for a banned substance.

As a result, all of Akor’s competitive results between December 6, 2012 and November 5, 2013, when Akor accepted her sanction, have been disqualified, including prize money.

The marathon will take runners from St Mary’s Junction, Couva, north along the Southern Main Road, east through Chaguanas to Montrose and then north through Cunupia to Curepe before heading west along the Eastern Main Road to Port of Spain.

On entering the capital, the runners will proceed along Wrightson Road, turning right at PowerGen and then onto Ariapita Avenue before returning to Colville Street to head north towards the finish at the Savannah.

Walkers and slow runners who are not expected to complete the marathon course in less than around six hours will start at 3:30 a.m.

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