What you need to know:
- Once again, the Kenya-Ethiopia long distance running rivalry will be in display especially in the women’s race, while athletes from Eritrea are expected to add a twist to the men’s race.
- Two-time former World marathon champion Abel Kirui leads Kenya’s assault of 2016 Amsterdam Marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru and marathon debutante Bedan Karoki, who is also the World Half Marathon silver medallist.
- The Kenyans have a battle at hand as they confront the second fastest man in marathon history, Ethiopian track legend Kenenisa Bekele and reigning World Marathon champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie from Eritrea.
The World record could go up in smoke when some of the finest long distance runners clash at this year’s London Marathon on Sunday.
Once again, the Kenya-Ethiopia long distance running rivalry will be in display especially in the women’s race, while athletes from Eritrea are expected to add a twist to the men’s race.
There is no pulling stops as two-time former World marathon champion Abel Kirui leads Kenya’s assault of 2016 Amsterdam Marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru and marathon debutante Bedan Karoki, who is also the World Half Marathon silver medallist.
Whether Kirui and company will retain the title after Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge won the race in a course record 2:03:05 last year is left to be known.
The Kenyans have a battle at hand as they confront the second fastest man in marathon history, Ethiopian track legend Kenenisa Bekele and reigning World Marathon champion Ghirmay Ghebreslassie from Eritrea.
Bekele won the Berlin Marathon in September in 2:03:03, missing Dennis Kimetto’s world record by just six seconds.
The feat saw the triple Olympic champion and double world record-holder on the track dislodge Kipchoge, who had reigned supreme to claim the London Marathon in April in 2:03:05, from second spot in the all-time fast finishers list.
Fast-rising Ghirmay, who became the youngest athlete to win a World marathon title aged 19 in 2015, also made history as the youngest man to win New York City Marathon last year. The Eritrean settled fourth in London last year in a personal best of 2:07:46.
Disappointed after they were left out of the marathon team for Rio Olympic Games, Mary Keitany and Florence Kiplagat are out to bring down the London Marathon course record with an explosive show. Olympics 5,000m gold medallist Vivian Cheruiyot, has promised to run her race without pressure.
The trio faces Tigist Tufa, who was a surprise winner two years ago. Tufa leads the Ethiopian attack that has the reigning World marathon champion Mare Dibaba, who won the bronze in Rio, and Aselefech Mergia, the 2010 London Marathon champion.
Three-time Dubai Marathon winner Aberu Kebede, who has also won the Berlin Marathon three times, and Mare’s namesake Tirunesh Dibaba, the triple Olympic and five times World champion at 5000m and 10,000m, are also in contention.
KIRUI OUT TO CONQUER LONDON
In the men’s race, Kirui, who is making his third appearance in London, targets nothing short of victory, having finished fifth in both 2010 and 2012.
"I know it's a strong field but I have prepared well and I know God will deliver this one for me. I fear no one since what matters here is how someone has prepared and not how rich the field is," said Kirui, who is returning to London for the first time since 2012 when he finished fifth, just four months before winning silver at London Olympics.
Kirui, who failed to defend his World title in 2013 due to injury before missing out on selection for 2015 World Championships, surprised many when he won Chicago Marathon in October last year.
Kirui’s ultimate dream this year is to get the ticket to the World Championships where he will be targeting his third title.
"Victory in London will be key to that dream," said Kirui, who boasts of a personal best of 2:05:04 from his third place finish in 2009 Rotterdam Marathon.
Wanjiru, the 2016 Amsterdam Marathon winner, is out to scale the ladder while Karoki, who is based in Japan, is ready for his marathon debut.
"All is well and what doesn't bother me is the strong field since I am going to run my race," said Karoki, who warmed up to London with victory at Ras Am Khaimah Half Marathon in February in 59:10.
KEITANY TARGET THIRD TITLE
Keitany, the reigning New York City and Chicago marathons champion, and Kiplagat were left out in favour of Jemimah Sumgong, World marathon silver medallist Helah Kiprop and Visiline Jepkesho for the Rio Olympics.
Sumgong, who was due to defend her London Marathon on Sunday but has since been barred from competing after she failed a dope test, won gold at the Rio Olympics.