Photo: Bethwell Yegon finishing second in Vienna in 2023,  credit: Leo Hagen / VCM

Bethwell Yegon returns to the Vienna City Marathon where he was runner-up in unusually warm conditions last year. The Kenyan hopes to go one better this time and win his first marathon on 21st April.

He will be challenged by Ethiopia’s Chala Regasa, who is also targeting a first major marathon triumph. Both athletes have personal bests of slightly over 2:06 and head the competitive men’s field of the Vienna City Marathon. Over a dozen athletes on the current start list have personal records of sub 2:10 and a number of them hope to qualify for the Olympic marathon in Paris this summer.

With over 40,000 entries the Vienna City Marathon is Austria’s biggest one day sporting event and the only road race in the country that features a World Athletics Elite Label. The figure includes entries for shorter races staged parallel to the marathon. 

Bethwell Yegon ran a stunning marathon race in Berlin in 2021, when he came from far behind, overtook Ethiopia’s superstar Kenenisa Bekele and almost challenged for victory in the final stages. Yegon finished second and improved his personal best by more than two minutes to 2:06:14. This remains the fastest time of the 31 year-old who trains in Iten, the heart of Kenyan long distance running. “I am happy to return to Vienna and my goal is to fight for victory and take a place on the podium. Hopefully the weather conditions will be fine and there will be a strong group to run with,“ said Bethwell Yegon, who clocked 2:06:57 a year ago, which is the fifth fastest time ever run in the history of the Vienna City Marathon. 

Chala Regasa has already run on Vienna’s roads as well, though in a different role. The 26 year-old Ethiopian was part of the pacemaking team that supported Eliud Kipchoge when he sensationally broke the two hour marathon barrier in 2019. It was a year ago when Regasa finally ran his marathon debut in Rotterdam with a fine 2:06:11 for fifth place. With this time he is currently the fastest runner in the field. Vienna will be his second marathon and his strong half marathon PB of 59:10 suggests that there is some room for improvement. His biggest career win so far came in the New Delhi Half Marathon in 2022, where Regasa clocked 60:30 and beat a strong field.

Felix Kibitok is another runner who features both, a personal best of sub 2:06:30 and a very fast half marathon PB. The Kenyan was fifth in Barcelona in 2022 with 2:06:28 and achieved 59:08 in the Prague Half Marathon back in 2019. On two more occasions Kibitok ran sub one hour half marathon times. Samsom Amare from Eritrea, who won his marathon debut in Abu Dhabi in 2023 with 2:07:10 and was ninth at the World Half Marathon Championships in 2023, plus Kenyans Albert Kangogo (2:07:48) and Leonard Barsoton (2:09:06) could well challenge for a place on the podium as well. 

The Vienna City Marathon is one of the last few races during the second half of April which provides athletes with the chance to qualify for the Olympic Games’ marathon in Paris this summer. The official qualifying time is 2:08:10 and the qualifying window shuts on 30th April. There are a number of athletes who will try to fulfill their Olympic dream in Vienna: Belgium’s Lahsene Bouchikhi has a personal best of 2:08:36 from Valencia last year while Daniel Paulus is the national record holder of Namibia. He clocked 2:08:40 in his debut in Daegu, South Korea, in 2023. Juan Pacheco from Mexico is also expected to try to qualify for Paris. He has a personal record of 2:09:45 while Tiidrek Nurme from Estonia has run 2:10:02. 

The Vienna City Marathon will also be hosting the Hungarian national marathon championships for the second time in a row. Around 40 of the best athletes from the neighbouring country will come to Vienna to determine their champions.

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