A look ahead to the 26.2-mile IAAF World Championships events in the UK capital
This may not be the London marathon as we know it – and a very different spectacle from the one that usually unfolds every April in the UK capital – but the men’s and women’s contests over the classic 26.2-mile distance at the IAAF World Championships will make for compelling viewing.
The events, which are being staged by The Great Run Company, are particularly spectator friendly given that the course which starts and finishes on Tower Bridge will take in four 10km loops featuring some of the city’s most famous landmarks.
It’s a big departure from the annual route which climaxes on The Mall, but Daniel Wanjiru will be feeding off a winning feeling after his victory on the streets of London in the spring time.
The Kenyan showed plenty of composure and no little amount of skill when he saw off the challenge of Kenenisa Bekele. This time, however, the Ethiopian threat will come instead from Tamirat Tola, who set a course record 2:04:11 in winning the Dubai Marathon which makes him the fastest man in the world over the distance this year.
Wanjiru’s fellow countryman Gideon Kipketer, a winner in Mumbai at the start of the year, will feature prominently, as will Ethiopia’s Tsegeye Mekonnen and Eritrean Yohanes Gebregergish.
Of course, the home crowd will reserve the biggest cheers for Callum Hawkins, the 25-year-old Briton who impressed so many with his ninth-place finish at the Olympic marathon in Rio last year.
His Scottish record-breaking 60:00 half-marathon run in Japan in February further underlined his undeniable talent and, although he has not had an ideal build-up, Hawkins insists he is relishing the challenge ahead.
“I can’t wait to go up against the world’s best marathon runners again at a home championships,” he says. “I really hope the crowd will come out to support us. It will be an incredible atmosphere.”
It will be a landmark day for Josh Griffiths, the Welshman who wrote a remarkable story after beating an elite British field which he had started behind to qualify first at the London Marathon.
The self-coached Swansea Harrier has recently graduated with a degree in sports coaching but is hopeful that a good run will answer some immediate career questions.
“The biggest change for me since London has been thinking of myself as an athlete now rather than just a student who runs as well,” says Griffiths. “Hopefully if I run well here then I can do this full-time.”
The British line-up is completed by another Welshman, the 37-year-old Andrew Davies, a fell running specialist who was called up to replace the injured Robbie Simpson.
In the women’s race, Edna Kiplagat heads the field when it comes to experience.
Gold medallist in 2011 and 2013, this year’s Boston Marathon winner will be competing in her fourth World Championships and looking to make it a hat-trick of titles in the marathon, something which has never been achieved by either a male or female athlete.
The 37-year-old could only place fifth in Beijing two years ago, however, during an exceptionally tight race in which Mare Dibaba landed Ethiopia’s first ever world title in the women’s marathon.
Dibaba is among the sizeable field, as is her namesake, compatriot and Tokyo Marathon winner Berhane Dibaba.
Helah Kiprop, second in Beijing two years ago, will challenge but there is also a substantial threat provided by Bahrain’s Eunice Kirwa. The 33-year-old Olympic silver medallist is the fastest in the field this year thanks to the 2:21:17 she ran in winning the Nagoya Marathon.
For Britain, Olympian Alyson Dixon, who won her first British vest at the 2011 World Championships, tends to run well in London and will draw on all of her elite racing experience.
Former European under-20 cross country champion Charlotte Purdue, on the other hand, is still in the very early stages of her marathon career and will be looking to build on the impressive start she has made in her first IAAF World Championships appearance.
“I tried to make Rio last year but that (her Olympic qualifying attempt in London) was my first marathon so I knew that would be a big ask to run your first one and make the Olympic team. But I was pretty close,” says Purdue, who has a personal best of 2:29:23.
“As soon as I saw I was that close I put this on my radar and I knew that I could make the team, barring any injuries. I was happy when I did make it and now it’s going to be about finishing as high up as I can in the race.”
The rapid marathon progression of former sprinter Thames Valley Harrier Tracy Barlow will continue, too.
» For much more on IAAF World Championships marathon action, including interviews with Charlotte Purdue, Josh Griffiths and Steve Jones on Callum Hawkins, plus a route map and stats, can be found in the August edition of Running Monthly magazine, out with the August 3 Athletics Weekly