SCHENECTADY -- So, who will show up?
The MVP Stockade-athon 15k is as tradition-rich as any you'll find, and one of those recurring themes is the uncertainty among the top contenders, the X-factor of the unexpected runner who is off the radar and makes an impact on the final outcome, win or lose.
That's not as much of a consideration these days, since race organizers cut off registration the Friday before the race, but Sunday's 42nd Stockade-athon appears to be a wide-open affair in terms of who will win.
For one thing, the defending men's and women's champions, Lou Serafini and Hannah Davidson, are not expected back, according to one of the co-race directors, Ed Neiles.
In fact, there is significantly less incentive for the top seven men's finishers from 2016, for example, to run this year, since prize money now is restricted to the greater Capital Region and Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club members (regardless of residence) who have been with the club since before June 1.
"It'll be a lot of local people running and none of the hotshots of the past," Neiles said.
That said, there still will be some strong talent at the front of the race, and among those who recently showed up on the local scene is Julius Mbugua, a Kenyan who has been under the guidance of Tim Maggs of Scotia, for years a liaison for African runners competing in the U.S.
He finished third behind Tyler Andrews and Serafini in 1:11:58 (5:38 mile pace) at the Mohawk Hudson River Half Marathon on Oct. 8.
In an email, Maggs said Mbugua's "optimistic" goal was to run sub-48:00 in the 9.3-mile Stockade-athon. The last time the Stockade-athon men's winner didn't run sub-48 was 2004.
Also in the men's field is former Schenendehowa and University of Cincinnati star Scott Mindel, who missed the race last year after finishing 10th (49:21) in 2015. He is coming off a 2:24:19 in the Berlin Marathon.
Matt Brooker, who was 11th last year (49:31). won the Malta 5k in 14:53 (4:48) in September; Tom O'Grady, a perennial top-20 finisher, ran 18:31 at the Saratoga Palio-Melanie O'Donnell 5k in September; and Jacob Andrews was fifth at Malta (15:42) and third at the Saratoga Cross Country Classic 5k (16:26) on Oct. 29.
On the women's side, former Queensbury High star Brittany Winslow, who ran at Boston College, was first at the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 5k Apple Run in 19:23. She finished second to Davidson at the Stockade-athon last year in 56:39.
Mollie Turner won the women's division of the Saratoga Cross Country Classic in 17:53 and also won the Malta 5k in 17:14. She was seventh at the Hartford Marathon in 2:53:34 on Oct. 14.
The women's field also includes veteran Beth Stalker, who was the fifth-place woman at the BH-BL Apple Run, and Emma Willard graduate Courtney Breiner, who is a junior at Boston University.
Runners are encouraged to pick up their race packets at FleetFeet Albany on Wolf Road from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.