Habtamu and Meseret favorites for Rome Marathon


Habtamu Assefa and Meseret Kitata are aiming to keep titles with Ethiopia at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race on 22 March. Ethiopians are favorites for gold medal sweep.
Twelve months ago, the Ethiopian duo Shume Hailu and Ayelu Lemma won both races in the Italian capital, the third time in the race’s history that both titles were won by Ethiopian athletes. This year, Habtamu and Meseret will be looking to make it a fourth.
Habtamu, who represented Ethiopia at the 2012 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, has a personal best of 2:08:28, set at the 2013 Dubai Marathon.
Similarly, Teshome Gelana’s best of 2:07:37 dates back several years and he has not  run faster than 2:10 since September 2010. But the former Houston winner is consistent and earlier this year he finished second in Tiberias at 2:12:33.
The women’s field is just as competitive as the men’s. Ethiopia’s Meseret will be looking to bounce back from her 2:34:26 clocking in Dubai earlier this year. Aside from that race, she has finished in the top two in her three other marathons to date and has a personal best of 2:27:26 which was set last year.
Olena Burkovska is the fastest in the field. The Ukrainian’s personal best of 2:27:07 was set when winning the 2013 Hannover Marathon, but she has not  run faster than 2:31 in her two marathons since then.
Ethiopia’s Alem Mekonen is something of an unknown capacity as this will be just her fourth marathon. The 20-year-old, who finished 11th in the junior race at the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, has a personal best of 2:31:20 set last year in Dubai.