When the gun goes off at 5.00 a.m. tomorrow at St Mary’s Junction, in Freeport, to signal the start of the 33rd Trinidad and Tobago International Marathon (TTIM) one can expect to see the charge being led by runners from the African continent.

Last year’s male and female winners, Hilary Kipchirchir Kimaiyo and Leah Kigen, both of Kenya, will be at the forefront of a another strong Kenyan entry, which will also include Mark Chepses, last year’s runner up.

While Kimaiyo, who came home half-a-minute ahead of Chepses in two hours, 23:39 seconds, will be looking for a repeat, all eyes will have to be on his fellow Kenyan who will be seeking to end his string of runner-up placing, three on the trot, and clinch his first crown.

Another returnee facing the starter will be Colombia’s Juan Carlos Cardona Rios, winner in 2013 but who had to settle for third place last year. Despite being a full three minutes behind Kimaiyo the Colombian will be determined to regain the crown he captured two year ago.

Among the regional runners are Jamaican Marathon winner Rupert Green and veteran Andrew Gutzmore, also of Jamaica. T&T’s flag will be flown by Curtis Cox, a former winner and a consistent top ten performer, and Cantius Thomas, who was sixth last year.

In the women’s version Kigen will be a heavy favourite to secure a hat-trick of wins. Her winning time of 3:01:13 was almost 22 minutes ahead of Canada’s Karen Downey (3:23:11), who is also in tomorrow’s line-up along with Juliet Dinnal of Jamaica.

In the half-marathon event, which has a 5.45 am start in front of the E-Tech Park, Frederick Settlement in Caroni, T&T’s Tonya Nero will be seeking her fourth consecutive crown, having won the last three editions.

Nero has so dominated the women’s half marathon that her winning time last year of 1:20:25 was a little over fourteen-and-a-half minutes clear of her nearest rival Celine Lestrade, who took the runner-up spot in 1:35:04. The two renew rivalry but Lestrade will be hard-pressed to reverse positions with Nero, who according to coach Paul Voisin, is confident of completing the beaver-trick.

And in the men’s half marathon, the top three in last year’s edition are set to do battle once again. The Guyanese pair of Kelvin Johnson and Lionel Dandrade were one-two with T&T’s Elvis Turner, third. With just over two minutes separating the trio last time around the probability of a new champion being crowned is very likely.

There will be no 5K event today (Sat) as is customary as TTIM’s organising committee took a decision to focus their efforts on the marathon and half marathon, as both run off on the same day.

This year’s race is being dedicated to the late Dana Seetahal, who was an avid recreational runner and who completed the marathon on several occasions. In her honour special prizes will be awarded to runners from T&T courtesy Mau Pau. These prizes will provide incentives to the top runners who are the best of the local contingent.

In addition to the 5.00 am start there will be a 3.30 am start to accommodate recreational walkers and runners who may have difficulty in completing the course in five hours. Among those who will be taking advantage of the 3.30 am start will be Brian Lewis, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, who’s on a drive to raise awareness for the Athlete Preparation Fund.

National Gas Company CNG, National Flour Mills, Blue Waters, Gatorade, Subway, American Stores, ScripJ, Ma Pau, the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Sport are among some of the sponsors who have all thrown their support behind this year’s edition. Both the marathon and half marathon will finish opposite Whitehall at Queen’s Park West in Port of Spain.