Former winner Paul Martelletti is expected to be one of the front runners again at this year’s Watford Half Marathon on Sunday.

Martelletti was the winner in both 2015 and 2016 but missed out on last year’s event due to injury.

But the Victoria Park & Tower Hamlets runner returns to Cassiobury Park and is likely to be in the frame for a third victory in the event.

Jonathan Cornish finished first 12 months ago with a time of 1:08.40 but race organiser Richard Parles thinks he will face a tougher challenge this year.

Parles said: “We are very pleased that Jonathan is coming back to defend his title. I do think he will find it a bit more difficult this time because Paul was out last year.

“If Paul is fit then I think he will probably win but Jonathan is still a very good runner.”

Another contender is Paul Whittaker with the Southend-based athlete having a personal best half marathon time of 1:06.00.

In the women’s event, Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers’ Rachel Felton is expected to be one of the fastest with a personal best of 1:13.42.

But last year’s winner Sarah Stradling is not in the field to defend the title this weekend.

Entry for this year’s run has been very popular with 2,350 entrants and at least 1,800 of these are expected to finish the half marathon.

Parles said: “It has been our best entry for a few years and I think that may have been helped by publicity through social media.”

It is expected to be dry on Sunday but the conditions may still not be ideal for setting a new course record.

“They are forecasting dry weather with a temperature of five or six degrees which is very reasonable for this time of year,” Parles said. “They might like it a bit warmer but as long as it is not raining that’s the main thing.

“For a really fast time, they would probably want it a bit warmer so I would be surprised if the course record goes.”

He added: “It is a tough course. You tend to get personal bests on flat courses but it is so undulating and a fairly stiff test.”

This year’s half marathon will see 16 runners from Pesaro, Watford’s twin town in Italy, compete.

Parles said: “It is good that we have got them over from Italy and it’s a nice touch for the event. We’re very happy that they are coming over and we are hosting them.

“In the past we have often had people over from all five twin towns.”

The Watford Half Marathon gets underway at 10.30am in Cassiobury Park and the last runners are expected to finish the course at around 1.30pm.