MOLINE — A title defense a dozen years in the making highlights the elite women’s field released Monday for the Sept. 23 TBK Bank Quad Cities Marathon.
Ukraine’s Valentyna Poltavska, the event’s 2005 champion, tops the list of runners returning to vie for the 26.2-mile crown at the 21st annual bi-state race, which starts and finishes at John Deere Commons.
The men’s commitments will be released in the next week, according to Ian Frink, the QCM’s long-time elite runner coordinator.
Now 47, this is Poltavska’s first trip back since surviving hot and humid conditions to win in 2 hours, 45 minutes and 35 seconds. The 2004 QCM runner-up was prevented from returning to defend her title in 2006 by travel visa troubles.
Poltavska’s 2:39:34 runner-up finish in better weather still ranks sixth on the QCM’s all-time list of best performances, not far from the record 2:35:07 set in 2012 by Ethiopia’s Hirut Guangul.
Already this year, Poltavska has won Masters division titles at Green Bay (2:52:44) and Minnesota’s Grandma’s (2:48:16) marathons. She won the overall title last year at Detroit (2:49:52).
“I’m amazed with how fast she’s still running. She’s still consistently within five minutes of her winning time here 13 years ago,” Frink said. “She’s the odds-on favorite in the Masters if she doesn’t win the whole darn thing again.”
However, Poltavska must contend with a much better field than in 2005.
Of the 13 committed runners, six have run under 2:50 including Kenyan’s Joan Massah and Doreen Kitaka, and Ethiopia’s Meseret Basa.
Massah (2:46:53) and Kitaka (2:51:00) finished 2-3 in last year’s QCM. Massah also won last year’s Des Moines (2:42:43) and Lincoln Marathons (2:48:22) and she registered a personal-best in June at Grandma’s (2:44:02).
Kitaka’s PR came at the 2017 Lagos Marathon (2:43:49). Basa, whose best is 2:44:40 at the 2017 Richmond Marathon, finished fifth last year at QCM and third in 2016.
A pair of Americans also should be in the mix — South Carolina’s Shawanna White and Michigan’s Dani Steinbacher. White was third earlier this year at Newport News (2:45:19); Steinbacher owns a 2:47:16 from the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Ethiopia’s Alem Ashebir has the best PR in the field, but that 2:37:08 came in the 2007 Singapore Marathon.
Ethiopian Belayinesh Fikadu is not defending her title after clocking 2:42:11 last fall.
“We have a lot more depth than we’ve had in years past,” Frink said. “There’s not anybody alone on the top end, but having a group in the mid 2:40s is nice, and on the fringe of that are some others who have run good half-marathon times that I could see running in the lead pack, too.”
Kenya’s Betty Kathambi (1:15:57), Ethiopia’s Bose Gemeda Assefa (1:16:16) and Michigan’s Jessica Moskalewski (1:23:52) headline a group of top 10k performers moving to the full marathon.
“A strong pack has made for some great races and times over the years in the men’s field,” Frink said, remembering a couple of four-second differences at the wire, the most recent in 2012. “We don’t usually get that in the women’s race, but we might have that this year.”
Frink also is excited about the half-marathon field where Colorado’s Brittany Charboneau owns the top seed (1:17:37) from a win earlier this year from the Disney Half Marathon. She also clocked 2:36:25 to finish sixth at the 2018 Los Angeles Marathon.
Chicagoans Jane Bareikis (1:17:55) and Kristin Johnson (1:18:53) also have run under 1:20. The course record is 1:14:23, set by Chicago’s Laura Batterink in 2014. Last year’s winner was another Illinoisan, Julie Crutchfield, with a 1:26:19 on a hot and humid race day.
“We’d like to have Brittany in the full field,” Frink said. “But she and a couple of others will push the pace. I don’t think we’ll see a record, but it could be a real exciting finish.”