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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.

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Jepchumba, Chebii Are Pre-Race Favorites

Prague, Czech Republic

On Saturday, the city of Prague will host a 10K road race which has the ingredients to be one of the fastest road contests of the year. But the competition will also feature a little twist. When it comes to race staging, the revered RunCzech Race Series – widely recognized for its much-coveted IAAF Gold Label Race Series distinction – likes to chart its own path. While most race organizers schedule their urban road duels to take place early in the day – shortly after the cock crows – RunCzech leadership enjoys exploring new ways to celebrate the sport we love. And in the case of Saturday’s upcoming Birell Prague Grand Prix 10K, that means a race start for its 10,000 competitors just as the sun sets on one of the world’s most idyllic European cities.

A pre-race press conference held Thursday showcased three of the more accomplished world-class athletes who will be competing Saturday evening.

The elite women’s field is stacked with 5 athletes sporting 10K PR’s under 32:00, three of whom have dipped under 31 minutes. Kenya’s Violah Jepchumba is back in Prague with her sights set on a victory. When last here in early April, she trounced an exceptional field to win the Prague Half Marathon – the leadoff event for the 7-race RunCzech Race Series. Running hard from the starter’s pistol, Jepchumba tore through the first 10 kilometers in 30:29 – still a world leader this year and #3 on the world’s all-time list – to build a meaningful advantage she never relinquished. Her winning clocking of 1:05:51 is #1 on this year’s world list and makes her the #3 performer of all time in the half marathon. The Kenyan star appears ready for the shorter race. When asked if she could take down the course record of 30:55 set in last year’s race by fellow Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the normally soft-spoken Jepchumba didn’t hesitate, “I can break the break the record,” she replied softly. Countrywomen Gladys Cherono [PR: 30:56] and Pascalia Kipkoech [PR:30:57] are poised to challenge Jepchumba if she would falter.

In the men’s competition, Kenya’s Daniel Chebii is back to defend his title and to see if he can make it 3 Grand Prix victories in the last 4 years. Chebii crossed the line in 27:42 to win last year’s race as he led a total of 7 athletes to sub-28:00 clockings. Given the strength of this year’s field in the men’s race, it may require a world-leading performance [currently 27:42] or even a new course record [presently 27:28 by Geoffrey Ronoh] to capture this year’s crown. Like Jepchumba, the defending champion was confident that, if pressed, he would have more to give.

One of the men prepared to challenge Chebii in Saturday’s twilight affair is his fellow Kenyan Patrick Makau. Makau – the former marathon world record holder who set the then-global best of 2:03:38 in winning Berlin in 2011 – is using this shorter competition to test his fitness and further prepare himself for December’s Fukuoka Marathon where he is the two-time defending champion. “I have been training faithfully in Kenya in preparation for this race and my scheduled marathon in Japan,” replied Makau who has been devoting time in his native country to develop what he calls “speed strength.” His fellow competitors may learn more about what that phrase means Saturday evening. 

RunBlogRun Some photographs on this site have been reproduced with permission from runblogrun.com.