Debutante to line up as part of experienced and decorated elite field on April 21
Three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba will be looking to transfer her success in London from the track to the road when she makes her debut over 26.2 miles on April 21.
The 27-year-old Ethiopian, who added victory in the 10,000m at the Olympics last summer to her gold-medal winning performances in the 5000m and 10,000m at Beijing 2008, will line up as part of an impressive elite field for both men and women which also includes both London 2012 Olympic champions, the men’s world record-holder and the 2012 London Marathon men’s winner.
Fellow Ethiopian Tiki Gelana, a more experienced marathoner after her win at the Olympic marathon in August, will also be one to watch in the women’s race. Her winning time of 2:18:58 at last year’s Rotterdam Marathon makes her the fourth fastest woman of all time behind Britain’s Paula Radcliffe, Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova and Kenya’s Catherine Ndereba.
But ultimately all eyes will be on the versatile Dibaba, who is also the five-time world cross-country champion, four-time world champion over the 5000m and 10,000m and world record holder over the outdoor 5000m, to see whether her talents extend to the longer distance.
An Ethiopian victory in the women’s race is by no means set in stone, however, with Kenyans Florence Kiplagat, Edna Kiplagat and Priscah Jeptoo also challenging for the title.
World champion Edna Kiplagat will be hoping to improve on her third place at last year’s London Marathon, while Jeptoo will be hoping to go one better than her silver medal in the marathon at London 2012.
Running in front of a home crowd once more is Amy Whitehead, Susan Partridge and Freya Ross (Murray), with Ross looking to improve on her 2:28:10 PB.
Helen Clitheroe is the most intriguing British entrant as she is making her marathon debut aged 39 after a track career that saw her win the European Cup 1500m in 2000 and European Indoor 3000m title in 2011.
The men’s race looks to be equally as spectacular, as it features the best elite men’s marathon field ever assembled.
Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich, the surprise winner of the London 2012 Olympic marathon, will return to the capital to do battle with Olympic silver medallist and world champion Abel Kirui and Olympic bronze medallist Wilson Kipsang, both of Kenya.
Winner of last year’s London Marathon, Kipsang will be out to prove a point in a field which features 11 men who have completed the distance in under 2:06. Last year saw the Kenyan miss out on the course record by just four seconds, but he will need to see off his countrymen Patrick Makau, who holds the marathon world record of 2:03:38, and Geoffrey Mutai, who will be making his London Marathon debut, if he is to claim victory in 2013.
While Kenya look likely to dominate the top spots in the men’s race, the Ethiopians should not be overlooked, with Tsegaye Kebede, who won last year’s Chicago Marathon and the 2010 London Marathon, capable of causing an upset, as is Ayele Abshero winner of last year’s Dubai Marathon in 2:04:23.
Although Brits Scott Overall and Tomas Abyu are unlikely to challenge for the win, if they beat their personal bests, they could secure a top 10 finish. Fellow British runners Derek Hawkins, Phil Wicks and Philip Anthony are also set to take to the streets of the capital, with Matt Bond making his London Marathon debut.
Speaking of the talent on show in the men’s race, race director Hugh Brasher said: “We’re delighted to welcome all three medallists from the London 2012 Olympic Marathon to this year’s Virgin London Marathon.
“The Olympic stars will line up alongside the world’s best distance runners in what promises to be a remarkable battle between the strongest men’s field ever assembled for a marathon.”
The men’s and women’s elite wheelchair fields will be announced next month.