The 32nd edition of the Trinidad and Tobago International Marathon (TTIM) will be held on Sunday January 26, from five a.m., as part of the finale of a four-event running festival, which begins the day before.
However, when participants face the starter at St Mary Junction in Freeport, they will be doing so without seven-time winner and 2013 female champion Mary Akor of the United States.
This was the revelation made by TTIM race director Francis Williams-Smith at the launch of the 2014 marathon at the Normandie Hotel in Port of Spain, on Tuesday.
“Akor tested positive for a banned substance and has been handed a two-year ban by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) retroactive to May 6, 2013, which makes her ineligible to compete,” Williams-Smith said.
But organisers are confident that even without Akor’s presence the 2014 running of the marathon will be quite competitive as Kenya’s Phillip Lagat will be among a host of international participants.
The Kenyan is no stranger to Trinidad, having won Southern Games 800 metres and 10,000 metres titles in 2007 and the 1,500 metres title in 2008.
Lagat, who set a personal best of two hours, 15:26 seconds last January, is expected to provide a stiff challenge to returning men’s champion Juan Carlos Cardona Rios of Colombia.
Rios took last year’s event in 2.23:5, but holds a personal best time of 2.13:29.
Also expected to be in the fray among the men are Kenya’s Mark Chepes, runner-up in 2012 and 2013; Busienei Joshua Kipkosgei, fifth last year; and T&T’s Curtis Cox, who finished eighth overall last year and was a previous winner in 2005.
Among the women, last year’s runner-up Leah Kigen of Kenya will be looking to cross the finish line first, though she’s expected to be promoted to the top spot for 2013 following Akor’s disqualification.
In addition to the regular 5 am start, the marathon will also have an early start at 3 a.m. to facilitate walkers and physically challenged participants who would want to benefit from cooler temperatures over a longer time period to help offset adverse conditions.
The T&T Half Marathon is also on Sunday and two-time defending female champion, Tonya Nero, will be seeking a hat-trick of victories.
Scheduled for a 5.45 a.m. start outside the eTeck Park at the Frederick Settlement Industrial Park in Caroni, the half-marathon shares the same finish point as the marathon, which is at Whitehall, Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain.
On Saturday at 3 p.m., the schools relay kicks off the two-day marathon festival weekend.
Open to all primary and secondary schools, teams will cover four legs of one kilometre each, with the first leg starting and the last leg ending at Whitehall.
And one hour later, the internationally flavoured 5K with will be contested around the Queen’s Park Savannah to also finish at Whitehall.
The 5K boasts both a schools category and a corporate category for companies that which to participate.
Organisers said that the 5K, half-marathon and marathon have been able to attract participants from Ethiopia, Jamaica, Nigeria, Brazil, USA, Colombia, Kenya, England, Japan, Canada, Barbados, Guyana, St Lucia and Germany.
The top male and female finisher of the marathon will receives US$3,100 each while any runner to smash the local male and female records of 2.17:28 and 3.01:28, respectively, will receive a cash incentive of $3,000.
Additionally, any local male under 2:50 and female under 3:15 gets a $300 cash incentive as well as all first time participants to complete the race.
Registration for the marathon is TT$120 for nationals and US$60 for internationals; TT$100 for nationals and US$60 for internationals for the half-marathon; with nationals paying TT$60 and internationals US$20 for the 5K.
Williams-Smith said that nationals within the 19-29 age group will receive a special registration fee of only $10 as they believe that T&T’s next marathon Olympian will come from this age demographic.
Registration can be done at the Chacon Street in Port of Spain, San Fernando and Long Circular Mall branches of Kenny’s Sports Centre or online at www.ttmarathon.com.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 757-7772; 464-5928; or 497-5598.