IT is expected to be a strong field for the University of the West Indies (UWI) SPEC 16th International Half Marathon and Relay tomorrow from 5 am, with Kenyan Alex Ekesa among the athletes aiming to dethrone men's and overall champion Didimo Armando Sanchez Mendoza of Venezuela.
The event, presented by First Citizens, is themed “a sound mind in a healthy body." The race begins and ends at UWI SPEC, UWI St Augustine campus.
Sanchez won the event last year in one hour, eight minutes and 49 seconds (1:08:49) and will be the favourite to claim the title again.
Ekesa, making his debut at the UWI SPEC Half Marathon, competed against Mendoza at the Tobago Sea to Sea Half Marathon earlier this year. Mendoza got the better of Ekesa on that occasion with the Kenyan finishing in second place.
It will be another keen contest tomorrow as Ekesa has a personal best time of 1:04:25 he achieved in Kenya three years ago.
Ekesa, 36, has been competing in TT since May. He won the National Association of Athletics Administrations Senior Champs 10,000m event in 32:48 in a small field that included just two other runners.
This year he also won the Walke Street Emancipation Committee Freedom Run 5K event and the Oilfield Workers Trade Union Butler 20K.
Ekesa is keenly anticipating the event tomorrow. "I am actually excited and confident because I have to. This is what I do, this is my profession...I have to be excited. I am hoping for the best...I am waiting for the day and believing and trusting that everything works out based on how I prepared and planned for it."
The Kenyan says he has been putting all his energy into the race saying, "I have to wake up each and every morning, very early in the morning (and) go for training and then in (the) evening."
Ekesa is concentrating on his own race. "My toughest competition is myself, I will be competing against myself. I don't want to point out so and so is going to be my competition, I am focussed on myself, beating myself in time. Once I have done that I will be a happy man."
Ekesa said he is not setting himself a specific time to run, because as much as athletes prepare there are certain situations that you can't control such as the weather, but will simply give his best.
Among the other men competing are Kenyan Vitalis Kimeli and local runners Matthew Hagley and Sherwyn Stapleton.
Colombian Raquel Agudelo Berrio, 27, is the defending women's champion clocking 1:20:34 last year. This year she captured the Panama Marathon and the Tobago Sea to Sea Marathon.
The Kenyan duo of Charity Wanjiru Mumbi and Leah Kigen will also have their eyes on the women's title.
The local women will be led by the quartet of Sjaelan Evans, Christine Regis, Chantel Le Maitre and Teresa Otero.