London Marathon preview: Will it be the course or world record?

Brigid Kosgei

World marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei during an interview with Nation Sport at Kerio View Hotel in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County on September 8, 2021.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • It is left to be known how Kosgei will handle pressure just two months after participating at Tokyo Olympic Games.
  • Other Kenyans in the race are Joyciline Jepkosgei (2:18:40) and Valary Jemeli (2:19:10).

Records will be at stake when some of the world’s fastest marathoners face-off in the men and women’s London Marathon on Sunday.

The women’s elite race gets underway at 11am (Kenyan time) followed by the men’s elite race at 11.30am.

Four-time champion Eliud Kipchoge, who holds the course record of 2 hours, 02 minutes and 37 seconds from his last victory in 2019 is out of the race but the men’s field is still looks strong.

Four of the seven all-time fastest athletes over the distance will battle in the streets of London.

The four have run 2:03.00 and under including Kenya's Milan Marathon champion Titus Ekiru, who has personal best 2:02:57 and reigning Boston and Chicago champion Lawrence Cherono with his best of 2:03:00.

Fast times

Ethiopians, the 2019/2020 Tokyo Marathon champion Birhanu Legese, who has personal best 2:02:48 and 2019 World marathon silver medalist  Mosinet Geremew, with personal best 2:02:55, wrap up the top four fastest men vanguard.

The quartet are then followed by four runners who have run sub 2:06 including Ethiopia's Shura Kitata (2:04:49), who insists he will not let a nagging hamstring injury ruin his London Marathon title defence.

Kenya’s Vincent Kipchumba (2:05:09), who was one second away from winning this race last year, is among the sub 2:06 athletes that include Sisay Lemma (2:03:36) and Kinde Atanaw (2:03:51) from Ethiopia.

This means that the field will have eight men who have broken the 2:06 barrier with six of them having gone under 2:04 hence making it one of the most competitive marathons in recent times.

It will be Ekiru’s maiden World Marathon Major (WMM) series race, which makes him the fast fastest man outside the WMM series with his triumphant time of 2:02:57 in Milan in May this year where he improved his own course record of 2:04:46 set in 2019.

Ekiru in contention

The time saw Ekiru, the African Games Half Marathon champion, ranked as the fifth fastest marathoner of all time.

Ekiru, 29, who has been training in Kapsabet, Nandi County at the Stanley Biwott Nike camp, is quite clear with his expectations in London.

“I want to lower my time further if the weather conditions allow on Sunday,” said Ekiru, who missed the Tokyo Olympic Games owing to an injury. 

“After my good performance in Milano, I went straight to camp and it has been four months of vigorous preparations.”

Kipchumba said that he has learnt from his mistakes at last year’s London Marathon hence will be eying not only the victory but also an improved personal best.

“The field is competitive and I know the race will be tough but I believe in my training. I'm looking forward to running a new personal best,” said Kipchumba, who has been training in Kapsabet.


He noted his mistake in last year's race was breaking early which allowed Kitata to out-sprint him to the tape.

"I have some slight problems but still I am preparing to win and looking forward to it," Kitata said at a press conference on Wednesday. "I was prepared very well before the Olympics and just two weeks before I had a hamstring injury that was a big pressure for me.”

Legese is fully prepared for London, and he’s talking big as well, with his eyes set on Kipchoge’s 2:02:37 course record. “If the weather is good, I plan to break the record,” said Legese.

Unbeaten in the city marathons in the last three years, Kosgei, who claimed silver at the Tokyo Olympic Games, is by far the fastest in the field with her World Record of 2:14:04 from Chicago in 2019.

The Kenyan will be eying to seal a hat-trick and become the first woman to win three titles in a row after Katrin Dörre-Heinig of Germany, who won in 1992 to 1994.

Kosgei is among five women, who have run under 2:19 and nine with sub-2:20 personal bests.

Six of the other women, including Kosgei, are fresh from the Tokyo Olympics. They are Roza Dereje (4th) , Sinead Diver (10th) and Lonah Salpeter (66th).

Two others didn’t finish the race at Tokyo Summers Games - Birhane Dibaba and Zeineba Yimer.

It is left to be known how Kosgei will the handle pressure just two months after participating at Tokyo Olympic Games.

Other Kenyans in the race are Joyciline Jepkosgei (2:18:40) and Valary Jemeli (2:19:10).

“I have had a short period to prepare for the race but I feel I have done enough to be ready. What remains is to implement my strategy for the race,” said the 25-year-old Kosgei, who became the youngest woman to win the London Marathon in 2019, clocking 2:18: 20.