Zimbabwean long-distance runner Pardon Ndhlovu, who is based in the United States, will rub shoulders with some of the world's leading runners when he makes his debut appearance at the 70th edition of the prestigious Fukuoka Marathon in Japan today.
The 30-year-old athlete, who made his Olympic debut last year in Rio de Janeiro, will be Zimbabwe's lone representative in the IAAF Gold Label international men's marathon race, which attracts some of the world's top long-distance runners.
Ndhlovu, however, will have his work cut out in his bid to improve his personal best time of 2:18:37 he achieved three months ago on his way to finishing in position 33 at the IAAF World Championships in London.
The Fukuoka marathon will be his first major international assignment since being named among the seven local recipients of the Olympic Solidarity Scholarships that will aide their preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The other athletes include female long-distance runner Rutendo Nyahora, sprinter Ngonidzashe Makusha, Camilla Kruger of equestrian, swimmer Peter Wetzlar and rowers Daniela du Toit and Stephen Cox.
Meanwhile, highly rated Kenyan Lani Rutto, with his impressive personal best time of 2:06:34 headlines the star studded Fukuoka marathon field which also includes Amanuel Mesel of Eritrea, who has a personal best of 2:08:17 from 2013, and Sondre Moen, the Norwegian record holder at 2:10:07.
Daichi Kamino, a 1:01:04 half marathoner, who excelled at the Hakone Ekiden earlier this year, will be making his eagerly anticipated debut.
Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich -- the 2012 Olympic and 2013 world champion -- is also among the favourites together with the in-form Bidan Karoki of Kenya, the London marathon bronze medalist and defending champion Yemane Tsegaye of Ethiopia.