Ethiopia’s Olympic and 2-time World Champion, Almaz Ayana will be one of the big highlights in the women’s deep elite field assembled for Sunday’s Valencia Marathon. This will be only her third marathon. Her personal best time of 2:17:20 which she ran to win the Amsterdam Marathon last year in October was the fastest marathon debut in history.

It may not be one of the reasons why she is coming to run here, but this was where her compatriot Letesenbet Gidey broke her record of being the fastest marathon debutant in history after the latter ran 2:16:49 to finish second behind Amane Beriso, who had won the race in a new course record and national record of 2:14:58, after she sprinted away from Gidey in the closing stages.

However, the fastest on the list is 24-year-old Tsehay Gemechu, who ran her best time of 2:16:56 to finish second at the Tokyo Marathon in March. This will be her third marathon, her debut having been at the Amsterdam Marathon last year where she ran 2:18:59 to finish in third place.

Worknesh Degefa is the other Ethiopian in the elite field with a personal best time of under 2:18. While her personal best time of 2:17:41 has remained stagnant for a while since 2019, she recently ran a decent half marathon time of 1:07:48 to win the Trento Half Marathon on the 1st of October this year.

Alma Ayana, London 2017, photo by Kevin Morris

The only non-Ethiopian runner with a sub 2:20 time is Romania’s Joan Chelimo who has a personal best time of 2:18:04, which she registered last year at the Seoul Marathon.

The 33-year-old Kenyan-born will be eligible to represent Romania in National Representative Competitions –according to World Athletics Eligibility to Represent a Member Rule 1.4.2- from the 3rd of July 2024, right on time before the Paris Olympics.

1500m World Champion and Olympic silver medalist, Genzebe Dibaba, will also be the other big star in the race trying to extend her supremacy into the marathon distance. This will be her third marathon race.

Hiwot Gebrekiden who just ran her personal best time of 1:06:28 at the Houston Half Marathon in January and her best time of 2:19:10 for the marathon at the Tokyo Marathon last year, will be the other big name to watch out for.

Valencia Marathon is sold out!

As runners look out for chances to get the qualifying times for the Olympic Games next year, the Valencia Marathon has proven itself to be one of the fastest courses in the world, and runners across the rest of the field could record several personal best times and perhaps national records.

The qualifying time for the women is 2:26:50, and the organizers of the 2023 Valencia Marathon have invited ten pacers to help them meet their target times on Sunday, the 2nd of December 2023. There will be a quota of only  80 runners in the marathon event at the 2024 Paris Olympics. The qualification period will be between the 1st of November 2022 and the 30th of April 2024.