Defending champions Jose Alejandro Varela and Leah Kigen will aim to defend their titles when the 36th edition of the Trinidad and Tobago International Marathon takes place tomorrow in a weekend full of long distance events.

Taking place simultaneously with the TT marathon will be the marathon relay featuring school teams, club teams and corporate teams. The busy weekend takes off today with a 5K event at 4 pm at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain. The participants will start the 5K at Casuals Corner and make one lap before completing the race at White Hall around the Queen’s Park Savannah. The marathon starts tomorrow at St Mary’s Junction in Freeport and ends at White Hall around the Queen’s Park Savannah. The walkers will begin at 3.30 pm, while the runners start at 5 am.

Race director Francis Williams-Smith expects a large turnout of competitors over the weekend. Smith said, “We have a full complement of 500 runners for the 5K, overall we have about 1000 participants in the relay, 5K and the marathon.

We have people from 10 different countries including Finland, USA, France, Denmark, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Guyana.”

Varela of Venezuela and Kigen of Kenya have returned to TT to defend the men’s and women’s title respectively in the marathon. Varela won the men’s event in two hours, 37 minutes and 51 seconds (2:37:51) last year, finishing ahead of national runner Curtis Cox who finished in 2:41:43, and Kenyan Peter Kemboi in 2:46:16.

Kigen won the women’s category in 2:54:46, finishing ahead of the national duo of Tonya Nero and Christine Regis who stopped the clock at 2:56:33 and 3:26:10 respectively.

A new national’s women’s champion will be crowned as Nero will not compete in this year’s event. The petite runner is currently preparing for the Dubai Marathon on Friday.

Other participants to look out for are French diplomat Sidy Diallo who competes barefoot.

Diallo, who was born in Guinea, has run over 150 marathons in seven continents, since making his debut on October 10, 2010.

Derrick McIntyre will walk the marathon to celebrate his 80th birthday, while TT Olympic Committee president Brian Lewis will walk to support the Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund.