Weldu’s pursuit for Paris

Weldu broke the national marathon record at the World Championships in Eugene in 2022 with 2:20:29. She placed fourth and missed the bronze medal by just eleven seconds. She was additionally unlucky since the qualifying period for the Olympic Games in Paris did not start until a few months later. Weldu ran two impressive marathons in 2023, but did not achieve an Olympic qualifier. She was sixth in Boston with a fine 2:23:25. However this course is not record-eligible, so World Athletics does not accept the Boston time for qualification. Next she produced another very strong performance at the World Championships in Budapest. In tremendous heat, she finished eighth in Budapest – this time she was outside the 2:26:50 Olympic qualifying time with 2:27:23.

“I was fourth in the World Championships in 2022 and eighth in 2023 and still I am not qualified for the Olympic marathon this year in Paris,“ she said during Thursday’s press conference in Vienna. “But now I have the big chance to finally do it here in Vienna. My goal is to run a fast time on Sunday. I will see how it goes during the race. If there should be problems then I will make sure to run just fast enough to qualify for Paris,” explained Nazret Weldu, who trains in Ethiopia. “The reason for training in Addis is that I have a strong training group there.“ Among her training partners is Ethiopia’s 2022 World Champion Gotytom Gebreslase who was runner-up in Budapest last year. 

The competition

While fellow Eritrean Dolshi Tesfu had to cancel her start in Vienna due to visa problems the strongest challenge for Weldu will probably come from two Kenyans: Shyline Torotich won the Enschede Marathon last year with a personal best of 2:22:45. The personal record of Rebecca Tanui is in a similar time range. She took the San Sebastian Marathon in 2022 with 2:23:09 and has the advantage of knowing the course in Vienna. A year ago she was fourth here with 2:26:34 when there were warm conditions. 

“Last year I was unlucky since I was injured two weeks before the race. During training a motorcycle hit me from behind. This year I am fine,” said Rebecca Tanui. “For me the cooler conditions forecasted now are better than the warm weather we had last year. So I hope to run a PB on Sunday.“

Namibia’s Helalia Johannes is the fastest woman on the start list with a personal best of 2:19:52. The 43-year-old is not expected to join the first group which is likely to run roughly a 2:22 pace. However, she will be among those runners who target the Olympic qualifying time of 2:26:50. Jovana de la Cruz Capani of Peru will probably join this group as well. To be among the three fastest runners of her country during the qualifying period she needs to improve her PB of 2:26:49 by just three seconds.

With a surprise improvement to 2:26:43 in Valencia last year Austria’s Julia Mayer has achieved the Olympic qualifying time. “I am ready to go on Sunday, it is a home game for me. I don’t expect to run a PB, but the goal is to achieve a very good place,“ said Mayer.

Kenyans Faith Chepkoech and Winny Kosgei are part of this year’s “OPEC Fund Rookie Team” in Vienna. They will both run their marathon debuts on Sunday.

Elite women

Helalia Johannes NAM 2:19:52

Nazret Weldu ERI 2:20:29

Shyline Torotich KEN 2:22:45

Rebecca Tanui KEN 2:23:09

Julia Mayer AUT 2:26:43

Jovana de la Cruz Capani PER 2:26:49

Lilia Fisikovici MLD 2:27:26

Zaida Ramos PER 2:29:49

Diana Bogantes Gonzalez CRI 2:32:09

Alina Armas NAM 2:33:09

Faith Chepkoech KEN Debut

Winny Kosgei KEN Debut