April 12, 2014 (ISN) – Tomorrow’s Virgin Money London Marathon can claim to have brought together the best men’s race ever assembled, in what is shaping up to be a titanic contest.
In what will be his marathon debut, Britain’s world and Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 metres champion, Mo Farah, has refused to rule out a victory, although he is wisely suggesting that his first target will be to break Steve Jones’s 29-year-old British record of 2hr 07min 13sec.
While Farah’s predecessor as Olympic 5,000 and 10,000m champion, Kenenisa Bekele, made a winning debut in Paris last Sunday, clocking 2:05.04, the Briton has pointed out there was very little serious opposition for the Ethiopian in France. Not so for him.
Among those he faces are Ethiopia’s double London champion Tsegaye Kebede, who is defending his title, Kenya’s Emmanuel Mutai, who set the course record of 2:04.40 in winning the 2011 race, and Olympic and world champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda.
Also toeing the line will be two other Kenyans with fearsome capabilities – Wilson Kipsang, who set the current world marathon record of 2:03.23 at last September’s Berlin Marathon, and Geoffrey Mutai, who has finished the marathon distance faster than anyone, in 2:03.02, albeit on the Boston course, which does not meet the criteria for records.
Farah, then, contrasts his own task with that of Bekele.
“It was Bekele’s first marathon but there was no one [for him] to worry about,” said Farah.
“There was hardly anyone there.
“He was going in with a different mindset compared to London.
“London is by far the toughest field we’ve ever seen, with guys who can run world records.”
Kipsang, in the meantime, is contemplating improving his own best performance in a race which is due to be paced at world record level to 30km by Ethiopia’s 40-year-old former world record holder Haile Gebrselassie.
“I believe it’s possible to set a world record on the London Marathon course,” said Kipsang, winner in 2012.
“And if the weather is good on Sunday I’m confident I’ll run well.”
Attention in the women’s race will centre on another world and Olympic champion on the track who is making a debut over 26.2 miles – Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba.
“The marathon is a new experience for me, and even though I have made good preparations for it I am still a little bit frightened,” said Dibaba, who has been taking advice from her fellow countryman Gebrselassie on how best to switch from track to road.
“Haile has good experience at the marathon and he has given me very useful advice,” she added.
Tiki Gelana has declared she is in the best shape of her life ahead of the London Marathon, and is ready to rise again after a cruel fall ruined her chances 12 months ago.
The Ethiopian, who won the Olympic title in London two years ago, says she is doubly determined to do well having seen her chances ended last year by a collision with a wheelchair athlete which knocked her to the ground.
“This marathon race is going to be a fast and furious one because the best runners from the world are here,” said Gelana, who added that she would quite probably be teaming up en route with Dibaba.
Meanwhile, the defending champion, Priscah Jeptoo, has confirmed she will be going for the women’s marathon world record.
The current world record of 2:17.42 was set by Britain’s Paula Radcliffe at the 2005 London Marathon.
To beat Radcliffe’s mark, Jeptoo will need to knock more than two-and-a-half minutes off her current personal best of 2:20.14, set at the London Marathon in 2012.
But she’s ready for the challenge.
“My training has gone really well so I’m confident I’ll be able to lower my personal best on Sunday and win the race again,” said Jeptoo.
Jeptoo is not the only Kenyan with her sights on the record though.
Double World Champion Edna Kiplagat admitted that breaking the record at the London Marathon would be a dream come true after finishing runner-up in 2012 and 2013.
“There’s a really strong women’s field this year but if we run at our best I’m confident we will beat the current world record,” said the Kenyan.
Six-time Paralympic champion David Weir will have to overcome a chest infection to claim a record-breaking seventh wheelchair title in London.
The 34-year-old has withdrawn from next week’s Boston Marathon after a recent bout of illness to concentrate on winning back the London title he lost to Australia’s Kurt Fearnley 12 months ago.
“I need to put all my efforts in to London,” he said.
“Every single bit of me will be on Sunday’s race.”
Paralympic and world champion Tatyana McFadden returns to the roads to defend her women’s wheelchair title after winning a silver medal in the sit-ski sprint at the Sochi Winter Paralympics last month.
The 24-year-old enjoyed a phenomenal year in 2013.
She triumphed at the Boston Marathon, broke the course record in London, then won in Chicago and New York too, making her the first person ever – non-disabled or disabled – to win the four major marathons in the same year.
London was chosen by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to launch the first Marathon World Cup last April, and events for visually and limb impaired competitors were added to a race-day programme that already included the well established wheelchair races.
Five inaugural winners of the IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup, including Britain’s Richard Whitehead, will return to defend their titles as the pioneering initiative expands in its second year with a new category of wheelchair race added to the schedule.